Prospective, double-blind, comparative fast-tracking trial in an academic emergency department during a period of limited resources

Y A Kilic, F A Agalar, M Kunt, M Cakmakci
European Journal of Emergency Medicine: Official Journal of the European Society for Emergency Medicine 1998, 5 (4): 403-6
The aim of this study was to determine the effectiveness of 'fast-tracking' in an academic emergency department (ED) during a period of limited resources and space constraints. This was a prospective, double-blind, comparative clinical trial. Fast-tracking was applied every other day between 08.00 and 17.30 hours. Patients meeting fast-tracking criteria, which were determined as allergy, dyspepsia, hypertension, urinary tract infection, urolithiasis, gastroenteritis, upper airway infection, minor lacerations, and soft tissue injuries with no sign or symptom of life-threatening illness or acute abdomen, were treated by a designated fast-tracking team. In the alternate days fast-tracking was not done, and the patients having the same criteria were recorded and followed as the control group. ED length of stays were determined for each patient, and at time of discharge a questionnaire was applied to determine patient satisfaction. Follow-up was performed by telephone survey at the 5th day of discharge. The median length of stay was 36 minutes for the fast-tracked group compared with 63 minutes for the control group. The application of fast-tracking decreased ED length of stay and improved patient satisfaction in patients presenting with allergy, dyspepsia, upper airway infection, minor laceration, and soft tissue injury, but not in patients with gastroenteritis, urinary tract infection, hypertension, and urolithiasis. The rate of follow-up was 81% (n = 217), and there were no complications or hospitalizations to another hospital. It is concluded that fast-tracking is an applicable and useful system in an academic ED with limited resources, and decreases ED length of stay and improves patient satisfaction in a selected group of patients. Determination of fast tracking criteria must be individualized for each hospital according to resources. Additionally, fast-tracking seems to be safe when performed under strict criteria for patient selection.

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