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Is the clinical frailty scale feasible to use in an emergency department setting? A mixed methods study.

BMC Emergency Medicine 2023 October 27
BACKGROUND: The Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS) is a frailty assessment tool used to identify frailty in older patients visiting the emergency department (ED). However, the current understanding of how it is used and accepted in ED clinical practice is limited. This study aimed to assess the feasibility of CFS in an ED setting.

METHODS: This was a prospective, mixed methods study conducted in three Swedish EDs where CFS had recently been introduced. We examined the completion rate of CFS assessments in relation to patient- and organisational factors. A survey on staff experience of using CFS was also conducted. All quantitative data were analysed descriptively, while free text comments underwent a qualitative content analysis.

RESULTS: A total of 4235 visits were analysed, and CFS assessments were performed in 47%. The completion rate exceeded 50% for patients over the age of 80. Patients with low triage priority were assessed to a low degree (24%). There was a diurnal variation with the highest completion rates seen for arrivals between 6 and 12 a.m. (58%). The survey response rate was 48%. The respondents rated the perceived relevance and the ease of use of the CFS with a median of 5 (IQR 2) on a scale with 7 being the highest. High workload, forgetfulness and critical illness were ranked as the top three barriers to assessment. The qualitative analysis showed that CFS assessments benefit from a clear routine and a sense of apparent relevance to emergency care.

CONCLUSION: Most emergency staff perceived CFS as relevant and easy to use, yet far from all older ED patients were assessed. The most common barrier to assessment was high workload. Measures to facilitate use may include clarifying the purpose of the assessment with explicit follow-up actions, as well as formulating a clear routine for the assessment.

REGISTRATION: The study was registered on 2021-06-18 (identifier: NCT04931472).

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