"Fast tracking" patients in an urban pediatric emergency department

H K Simon, D McLario, R Daily, C Lanese, J Castillo, J Wright
American Journal of Emergency Medicine 1996, 14 (3): 242-4
Modern health care reform emphasizes efficient resource and facility management and the need to develop strategies to direct patients with lower-acuity concerns away from the relatively cost-inefficient full-service pediatric emergency department (ED). This study examined a pediatric fast track system for triage accuracy and turnaround times. Egleston Children's Hospital is a regional, urban, tertiary-care academic center which is a major teaching affiliate of Emory University School of Medicine. The pediatric ED has an annual census of more than 30,000 patient encounters. During the 9-month period from December 1993 through August 1994, 2,243 lower-acuity patients were evaluated in the fast track section of the ED. Patients assigned to the fast track system maintained a quicker turnaround time than the aggregate of all patients seen in the ED (107 [95% CI 0, 245] minutes versus 149 [95% CI 0, 341] minutes, P < .01). Their total turnaround time was also less than that for patients with similar acuity levels seen during the hours that the fast track system was not in operation (120 [95% CI 0, 300 minutes], P < .01). Only 63 of the 2,243 (2.8%) patients assigned to fast track were found to have higher acuity levels than suspected at initial triage. In all cases they were appropriately cared for in the fast track area. The fast track system appears to be an effective method by which an urban pediatric ED can efficiently maintain patient flow in light of limited resources, space constraints, limited manpower, and an increasing census.

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