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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 14, Issue 2, 2013

Emergency Department Access

Advertising Emergency Department Wait Times

Advertising emergency department (ED) wait times has become a common practice in the United States. Proponents of this practice state that it is a powerful marketing strategy that can help steer patients to the ED. Opponents worry about the risk to the public health that arises from a patient with an emergent condition self-triaging to a further hospital, problems with inaccuracy and lack of standard definition of the reported time, and directing lower acuity patients to the higher cost ED setting instead to primary care. Three sample cases demonstrating the pitfalls of advertising ED wait times are discussed. Given the lack of rigorous evidence supporting the practice and potential adverse effects to the public health, caution about its use is advised. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):77-78.]

The Impact on Emergency Department Visits for Respiratory Illness During the Southern California Wildfires

Introduction: In 2007 wildfires ravaged Southern California resulting in the largest evacuation due to a wildfire in American history. We report how these wildfires affected emergency department (ED) visits for respiratory illness.

Methods: We extracted data from a Kaiser Permanente database for a single metropolitan community ED. We compared the number of visits due to respiratory illness at t ime intervals of 2 weeks before and during the time when the fires were burnin g. We counted the total number of patients with chief complaint of dyspnea, cough, and asthma and final international classification of disease 9 coding diagnosis of asthma, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and respiratory syndrome, and analyzed data for both total number and proportion of ED visits. We evaluated the data using Early Aberration Reporting System software to determine significant single-visit increases compared to expected counts. We also analyzed the average length of ED stay. Data on air quality were extracted from the http:// site.

Results: There were significant differences between pre-fire and fire period average visit counts for the chief complaints of dyspnea and asthma. Dypnea complaints increased by 3.2 visits per day. During the fire the diagnoses of asthma increased significantly by 2.6 patients per day. Air quality reached air quality index values of 300, indicating very unhealthy conditions. Average ED length of stay times remained unchanged during the fire period compared to the pre-fire period.

Conclusion: The 2007 Southern California wildfires caused significant surges in the volume of ED patients seeking treatment for respiratory illness. Disaster plans should prepare for these surges when future wildfires occur. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):79-84.]

Established and Novel Initiatives to Reduce Crowding in Emergency Departments

Introduction: The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) Task Force on Boarding described high-impact initiatives to decrease crowding. Furthermore, some emergency departments (EDs) have implemented a novel initiative we term “vertical patient flow,” i.e. segmenting patients who can be safely evaluated, managed, admitted or discharged without occupying a traditional ED room. We sought to determine the degree that ACEP-identified high-impact initiatives for ED crowding and vertical patient flow have been implemented in academic EDs in the United States (U.S.).

Methods: We surveyed the physician leadership of all U.S. academic EDs from March to May 2010 using a 2-minute online survey. Academic ED was defined by the primary site of an emergency residency program.

Results: We had a response rate of 73% (106/145) and a completion rate of 71% (103/145). The most prevalent hospital-based initiative was inpatient discharge coordination (46% [47/103] of respondents) while the least fully initiated was surgical schedule smoothing (11% [11/103]). The most prevalent ED-based initiative was fast track (79% [81/103]) while the least initiated was physician triage (12% [12/103]). Vertical patient flow had been implemented in 29% (30/103) of responding EDs while an additional 41% (42/103) reported partial/in progress implementation.

Conclusion: We found great variability in the extent academic EDs have implemented ACEP’s established high-impact ED crowding initiatives, yet most (70%) have adopted to some extent the novel initiative vertical patient flow. Future studies should examine barriers to implementing these crowding initiatives and how they affect outcomes such as patient safety, ED throughput and patient/provider satisfaction. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):85-89.]

Comparison Between Emergency Department and Inpatient Nurses’ Perceptions of Boarding of Admitted Patients

Introduction: The boarding of admitted patients in the emergency department (ED) is a major cause of crowding and access block. One solution is boarding admitted patients in inpatient ward (W) hallways. This study queried and compared ED and W nurses’ opinions toward ED and W boarding. It also assessed their preferred boarding location if they were patients.

Methods: A survey administered to a convenience sample of ED and W nurses was performed in a 631-bed academic medical center (30,000 admissions/year) with a 68-bed ED (70,000 visits/ year). We identified nurses as ED or W, and if W, whether they had previously worked in the ED. The nurses were asked if there were any circumstances where admitted patients should be boarded in ED or W hallways. They were also asked their preferred location if they were admitted as a patient. Six clinical scenarios were then presented, and the nurses’ opinions on boarding based on each scenario were queried.

Results: Ninety nurses completed the survey, with a response rate of 60%; 35 (39%) were current ED nurses (cED), 40 (44%) had previously worked in the ED (pED). For all nurses surveyed 46 (52%) believed admitted patients should board in the ED. Overall, 52 (58%) were opposed to W boarding, with 20% of cED versus 83% of current W (cW) nurses (P < 0.0001), and 28% of pED versus 85% of nurses never having worked in the ED (nED) were opposed (P < 0.001). If admitted as patients themselves, 43 (54%) of all nurses preferred W boarding, with 82% of cED versus 33% of cW nurses (P < 0.0001) and 74% of pED versus 34% nED nurses (P = 0.0007). The most commonly cited reasons for opposition to hallway boarding were lack of monitoring and patient privacy. For the 6 clinical scenarios, significant differences in opinion regarding W boarding existed in all but 2 cases: a patient with stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease but requiring oxygen, and an intubated, unstable sepsis patient.

Conclusion: Inpatient nurses and those who have never worked in the ED are more opposed to inpatient boarding than ED nurses and nurses who have worked previously in the ED. Primary nursing concerns about boarding are lack of monitoring and privacy in hallway beds. Nurses admitted as patients seemed to prefer not being boarded where they work. ED and inpatient nurses seemed to agree that unstable or potentially unstable patients should remain in the ED but disagreed on where more stable patients should board. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):90-95.]

  • 1 supplemental PDF

Prehospital Care

Education On Prehospital Pain Management: A Follow Up Study

Introduction: The most common reason patients seek medical attention is pain. However, there may be significant delays in initiating prehospital pain therapy. In a 2001 quality improvement (QI) study, we demonstrated improvement in paramedic knowledge, perceptions, and management of pain. This follow-up study examines the impact of this QI program, repeated educational intervention (EI), and effectiveness of a new pain management standard operating procedure.

Methods: 176 paramedics from 10 urban and suburban fire departments and two private ambulance services participated in a 3-hour EI. A survey was performed prior to the EI and repeated one month after the EI. We reviewed emergency medical services (EMS) runs with pain complaints prior to the EI and one month after the EI. Follow-up results were compared to our prior study. We performed data analysis using descriptive statistics and chi-square tests.

Results: The authors reviewed 352 surveys and 438 EMS runs with pain complaints. Using the same survey questions, even before the EI, 2007 paramedics demonstrated significant improvement in the knowledge (18.2%; 95% CI 8.9%, 27.9%), perceptions (9.2%; 95% CI 6.5%, 11.9%), and management of pain (13.8%; 95% CI 11.3%, 16.2%) compared to 2001. Following EI in 2007, there were no significant improvements in the baseline knowledge (0%; 95% CI 5.3%, 5.3%) but significant improvements in the perceptions of pain principles (6.4%; 95% CI 3.9%, 9.0%) and the management of pain (14.7%; 95% CI 11.4%, 18.0%).

Conclusion: In this follow up study, paramedics’ baseline knowledge, perceptions, and management of pain have all improved from 6 years ago. Following a repeat educational intervention, paramedics further improved their field management of pain suggesting paramedics will still benefit from both initial and also ongoing continuing education on the topic of pain management. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):96-102.]


Technology at the Bedside

Clinician-performed Beside Ultrasound for the Diagnosis of Traumatic Pneumothorax

Introduction: Prior studies have reported conflicting results regarding the utility of ultrasound in the diagnosis of traumatic pneumothorax (PTX) because they have used sonologists with extensive experience. This study evaluates the characteristics of ultrasound for PTX for a large cohort of trauma and emergency physicians.

Methods: This was a prospective, observational study on a convenience sample of patients presenting to a trauma center who had a thoracic ultrasound (TUS) evaluation for PTX performed after the Focused Assessment with Sonography for Trauma exam. Sonologists recorded their findings prior to any other diagnostic studies. The results of TUS were compared to one or more of the following: chest computed tomography, escape of air on chest tube insertion, or supine chest radiography followed by clinical observation.

Results: There were 549 patients enrolled. The median injury severity score of the patients was 5 (inter-quartile range [IQR] 1-14); 36 different sonologists performed TUS. Forty-seven of the 549 patients had traumatic PTX, for an incidence of 9%. TUS correctly identified 27/47 patients with PTX for a sensitivity of 57% (confidence interval [CI] 42-72%). There were 3 false positive cases of TUS for a specificity of 99% (CI 98%-100%). A “wet” chest radiograph reading done in the trauma bay showed a sensitivity of 40% (CI 23-59) and a specificity of 100% (99-100).

Conclusion: In a large heterogenous group of clinicians who typically care for trauma patients, the sonographic evaluation for pneumothorax was as accurate as supine chest radiography. Thoracic ultrasound may be helpful in the initial evaluation of patients with truncal trauma. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):103-108.]

Use of an Electronic Medical Record “Dotphrase” Data Template for a Prospective Head Injury Study

Introduction: The adoption of electronic medical records (EMRs) in emergency departments (EDs) has changed the way that healthcare information is collected, charted, and stored. A challenge for researchers is to determine how EMRs may be leveraged to facilitate study data collection efforts. Our objective is to describe the use of a unique data collection system leveraging EMR technology and to compare data entry error rates to traditional paper data collection.

Methods: This was a retrospective review of data collection methods during a multicenter study of ED, anti-coagulated, head injury patients. On-shift physicians at 4 centers enrolled patients and prospectively completed data forms. These physicians had the option of completing a paper data form or an electronic “dotphrase” (DP) data form. A feature of our Epic®-based EMR is the ability to use DPs to assist in medical information entry. A DP is a preset template that may be inserted into the EMR when the physician types a period followed by a code phrase (in this case “.ichstudy”). Once the study DP was inserted at the bottom of the electronic ED note, it prompted enrolling physicians to answer study questions. Investigators then extracted data directly from the EMR.

Results: From July 2009 through December 2010, we enrolled 883 patients. DP data forms were used in 288 (32.6%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 29.5, 35.7%) cases and paper data forms in 595 (67.4%; 95% CI 64.3, 70.5%). Sixty-six (43.7%; 95% CI 35.8, 51.6%) of 151 physicians enrolling patients used DP data entry at least once. Using multivariate analysis, we found no association between physician age, gender, or tenure and DP use. Data entry errors were more likely on paper forms (234/595, 39.3%; 95% CI 35.4, 43.3%) than DP forms (19/288, 6.6%; 95% CI 3.7, 9.5%), difference in error rates 32.7% (95% CI 27.9, 37.6%, P < 0.001).

Conclusion: DP data collection is a feasible means of data collection. DP data forms maintain all study data within the secure EMR environment, obviating the need to maintain and collect paper data forms. This innovation was embraced by many of our emergency physicians and resulted in lower data entry error rates. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):109-113.]

Implementation of Computerized Physician Order Entry for Critical Patients in an Academic Emergency Department is Not Associated with a Change in Mortality Rate

Introduction: There is limited literature on the effect of computerized physician order entry (CPOE) on mortality. The objective of our study was to determine if there was a change in mortality among critically ill patients presenting to the emergency department (ED) after the implementation of a CPOE system.

Methods: This was a retrospective study of all critically ill patients in the ED during the year before and the year after CPOE implementation. The primary outcome measures were mortality in the ED, after admission, and overall. Secondary outcome measures included length of stay in the resuscitation area of the ED, length of hospital stay, and disposition following hospitalization. Patient disposition was used as a marker for neurologic function, and patients were grouped as either being discharged to home vs. nursing home, rehabilitation center, or a long-term healthcare facility. We analyzed data using descriptive statistics, chi- square, and Wilcoxon rank sum tests.

Results: There were 2,974 critically ill patients in the year preceding CPOE and 2,969 patients in the year following CPOE implementation. There were no differences in mortality between the two groups in the ED, after admission, or overall. The pre- and post-CPOE mortality rate for the ED, hospital, or overall was 2.52% vs. 2.02% (P = 0.19, 95% confidence interval [CI] -0.3 to 1.3), 7.8% versus 8.29% (P = 0.61, 95% CI -1.9 to 0.9), and 10.32% vs. 10.31% (P = .60, 95% CI -1.5 to 1.6), respectively. There was no difference in hospital length of stay between pre- and post- CPOE patients (3 days versus 3 days), a difference of 0.05 days (95% CI -0.47 to 0.57). Length of stay in the ED resuscitation area was longer in the post-CPOE group (31 versus 32 minutes), a difference of -1.96 minutes (95% CI -3.4 to -0.53). More patients were discharged to home in the pre-CPOE group (66.8% versus 64.3%), a difference of 2.54% (95% CI 0.13% to 4.96%).

Conclusion: The implementation of CPOE was not associated with a change in mortality of critically ill ED patients, but was associated with a decrease in proportion of patients discharged to home after hospitalization. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):114-120.]

Ultrasound detection of a renal mass in a patient with flank pain and hematuria

Flank pain with hematuria is a common chief complaint in the emergency department (ED).  Patients are often diagnosed with renal calculi or pyelonephritis and discharged with analgesics or antibiotics and follow-up. This case study describes a patient who presented to the ED with a 1 week history of flank pain and hematuria and was subsequently found to have a large renal mass on bedside ultrasound. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):123-126.]


  • 1 supplemental video

Bedside Ultrasound in a Case of Blunt Scrotal Trauma

This case study describes a patient who suffered blunt force trauma to the scrotum. Use of bedside emergency ultrasound facilitated early diagnosis of a ruptured testicle and allowed for prompt urological consultation and timely surgical repair. The utility of bedside emergency ultrasound in the evaluation of testicular trauma, as well as the outcome of our case, is discussed here. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):127-129.]

  • 2 supplemental videos


Multimedia Education Increases Elder Knowledge of Emergency Department Care

Introduction: Elders who utilize the emergency department (ED) may have little prospective knowledge of appropriate expectations during an ED encounter. Improving elder orientation to ED expectations is important for satisfaction and health education. The purpose of this study was to evaluate a multi-media education intervention as a method for informing independently living elders about ED care. The program delivered messages categorically as, the number of tests, providers, decisions and disposition decision making.

Methods: Interventional trial of representative elders over 59 years of age comparing pre and post multimedia program exposure. A brief (0.3 hour) video that chronicled the key events after a hypothetical 911 call for chest pain was shown. The video used a clinical narrator, 15 ED health care providers, and 2 professional actors for the patient and spouse. Pre- and post-video tests results were obtained with audience response technology (ART) assessed learning using a 4 point Likert scale.

Results: Valid data from 142 participants were analyzed pre to post rankings (Wilcoxon signed-rank tests). The following four learning objectives showed significant improvements: number of tests expected [median differences on a 4-point Likert scale with 95% confidence intervals: 0.50 (0.00, 1.00)]; number of providers expected 1.0 (1.00, 1.50); communications 1.0 (1.00, 1.50); and pre-hospital medical treatment 0.50 (0.00, 1.00). Elders (96%) judged the intervention as improving their ability to cope with an ED encounter.

Conclusion: A short video with graphic side-bar information is an effective educational strategy to improve elder understanding of expectations during a hypothetical ED encounter following calling 911. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):132-136.]

Bedside Teaching on Time to Disposition Improves Length of Stay for Critically-ill Emergency Departments Patients

Introduction: We tested the effect of a brief disposition process intervention on residents’ time to disposition and emergency department (ED) length of stay (LOS) in high acuity ED patients.

Methods: This was a quasi-experimental study design in a single teaching hospital where ED residents are responsible for administrative bed requests for patients. Enrollment was performed for intervention and control groups on an even-odd day schedule. Inclusion criteria were ED patients triaged as Emergency Severity Index (ESI) 1 and 2. In the intervention group, the attending physician prompted the resident to make the disposition immediately after the evaluation of resuscitation patients. In the control group, the attending physicians did not intervene in the disposition process unless more than 2 hours passed without a disposition. Main outcomes were time to disposition and total ED LOS.

Results: A total of 104 patients were enrolled; 53 (51%) in the intervention group and 51 (49%) in the control group. After controlling for ESI and resident training year, mean disposition time was significantly shorter in the intervention group by 41.4 minutes (95% CI: 32.6-50.1). LOS was also shorter in the intervention group by 93.3 minutes (95% CI: 41.9-144.6).

Conclusion: Prompting residents to enter administrative disposition orders in high acuity patients is associated with significant reduction in both time to disposition and ED LOS. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):137-140.]

Injury Outcomes

Riding The Escalator – How Dangerous is it Really?

Introduction: About 10,000 escalator-related injuries per year result in emergency department treatment in the United States. Since the 1990s, a steady increase has been reported, but few statistics on escalator-related injuries have been published worldwide. We have therefore analyzed escalator accident statistics in admissions to our hospital in Switzerland since 2000.

Methods: Using retrospective electronic patient chart analysis, we included in our study patients >16 years treated over an 11-year period. We categorized patients in terms of gender, age and associated risk factors, and classified accidents according to day, time, location and cause. Resulting trauma was categorized according to type and location. We divided post-admission treatment into surgical and conservative, and into treatment as an outpatient, in a short-stay unit, or as a hospital admission. Women and men were compared using Fisher’s exact test.

Results: We identified 173 patients with 285 discrete injuries. Of these, 87 patients (50%) were women. Fifty-three (61%) of the women and 38 (44%) of the men were >60 years old (P = 0.033). Fifty percent of the men (43/86)of the men, but only 7% (6/87) of the women showed signs of alcohol intoxication (P < 0.0001). Accidents in women occurred predominantly on Tuesdays (19/87; 22%) between 12PM and 6PM (35/87; 40%), and in men on Saturdays (16/86; 19%) between 6PM and 12AM (29/86; 34%; P = 0.0097). Sixty-two percent (44/71) of the accidents were in public transport facilities and 30% (21/71) in shopping centers. The majority of injuries in women were to the lower extremities (49/87; 56%), while most accidents in men were to the head and neck (51/86; 59%; P = 0.0052). About half (90; 52%) of the patients were treated conservatively. Almost half of all patients (76, 44%) required hospital admission. Of those, 45% left the hospital within 24 hours of admission (short stay unit) and 55% stayed longer than 24 hours.

Conclusion: Escalator accidents can result in severe trauma. Significant gender differences in escalator accidents have been observed. Alcohol intoxication and age are significant risk factors in escalator-related accidents and might be possible targets for preventive measures. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):141-145.]

Unique Mechanism of Chance Fracture in a Young Adult Male

Since the first description of the Chance fracture in 1948, there have been few case reports of unique mechanisms causing this classical flexion-extension injury to the spine in motor vehicle accidents, sports injury, and falls. To our knowledge, this injury has not been reported from a fall with the mechanistic forces acting laterally on the spine and with spinal support in place. We present a 21-year-old male who slid down a flight of stairs onto his side wearing a heavy mountaineering style backpack, subsequently sustaining a Chance fracture of his first lumbar vertebrae. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):147-148.]

Diagnostic Acumen

Cardiac Tamponade

[West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):152.]

  • 1 supplemental video

Hepatic Abscess: Case Report And Review

Hepatic abscess is an uncommon occurrence in North America, but can be a diagnostic challenge for emergency department physicians. The clinical signs and symptoms may vary, leading to delays in diagnosis and higher morbidity. We present a case of a 35-year old male with a hepatic abscess initially misdiagnosed as pneumonia. On subsequent return to the ED for back pain complaints, a bedside ultrasound led to the appropriate diagnosis. This case report and discussion will attempt to review the literature on the etiology, diagnosis and treatment of hepatic abscess for the emergency physician. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):154-157.]

  • 1 supplemental video

Hickam's Dictum

[West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):164.]

Shock Index and Early Recognition of Sepsis in the Emergency Department: Pilot Study

Introduction: Screening for severe sepsis in adult emergency department (ED) patients may involve potential delays while waiting for laboratory testing, leading to postponed identification or over-utilization of resources. The systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) criteria are in­accurate at predicting clinical outcomes in sepsis. Shock index (SI), defined as heart rate / systolic blood pressure, has previously been shown to identify high risk septic patients. Our objective was to compare the ability of SI, individual vital signs, and the systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) criteria to predict the primary outcome of hyperlactatemia (serum lactate ≥ 4.0 mmol/L) as a surrogate for disease severity, and the secondary outcome of 28-day mortality.

Methods: We performed a retrospective analysis of a cohort of adult ED patients at an academic community trauma center with 95,000 annual visits, from February 1st, 2007 to May 28th, 2008. Adult patients presenting to the ED with a suspected infection were screened for severe sepsis using a standardized institutional electronic order set, which included triage vital signs, basic labora­tory tests and an initial serum lactate level. Test characteristics were calculated for two outcomes: hyperlactatemia (marker for morbidity) and 28-day mortality. We considered the following covariates in our analysis: heart rate >90 beats/min; mean arterial pressure < 65 mmHg; respiratory rate > 20 breaths/min; ≥ 2 SIRS with vital signs only; ≥2 SIRS including white blood cell count; SI ≥ 0.7; and SI ≥ 1.0. We report sensitivities, specificities, and positive and negative predictive values for the primary and secondary outcomes.

Results: 2524 patients (89.4%) had complete records and were included in the analysis. 290 (11.5%) patients presented with hyperlactatemia and 361 (14%) patients died within 28 days. Subjects with an abnormal SI of 0.7 or greater (15.8%) were three times more likely to present with hyperlactatemia than those with a normal SI (4.9%). The negative predictive value (NPV) of a SI ≥ 0.7 was 95%, identical to the NPV of SIRS.

Conclusion: In this cohort, SI ≥ 0.7 performed as well as SIRS in NPV and was the most sensitive screening test for hyperlactatemia and 28-day mortality. SI ≥ 1.0 was the most specific predictor of both outcomes. Future research should focus on multi-site validation, with implications for early identification of at-risk patients and resource utilization. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):168-174.]

A 37-year-old Woman with Altered Mental Status and Urinary Frequency

We present a case report of a patient who initially presented with altered mental status and significant urinary frequency. Over the course of her emergency department stay, she then developed tachycardia out of proportion to a new fever along with a respiratory alkalosis. Although each objective finding has a broad differential diagnosis, thyroid storm was the only unifying diagnosis when all findings were present. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):177-179.]

Patient Communication

Death Notification in the Emergency Department: Survivors and Physicians

When patients die in the emergency department (ED), emergency physicians (EP) must disclose the bad news to family members. The death is often unexpected and the act of notification can be difficult. Many EPs have not been trained in the skill of communicating death to family members. This article reviews the available literature regarding ED death notification training and proposes future directions for educational interventions to improve physician communication in ED death disclosure. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):181-185.]

Provider Workforce

Board-Certified Emergency Physicians Comprise a Minority of the Emergency Department Workforce in Iowa

Introduction: The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) endorses emergency medicine (EM) residency training as the only legitimate pathway to practicing EM, yet the economic reality of Iowa’s rural population will continue to require the hiring of non-EM trained physicians. The objective of our study is to better understand the current staffing practices of Iowa emergency departments (EDs). Specifically, we seek to determine the Iowa community size required to support hiring an emergency physician (EP), identify the number of EDs staffed by advanced practice providers (APPs) in solo coverage in EDs, determine the changes in staffing over a 4-year period, and understand the market forces that contribute to staffing decisions.

Methods: Researchers surveyed all 119 hospitals throughout the state of Iowa regarding their ED hiring practices, both in 2008 and 2012. From these data, we determined the mean population that supports hiring EPs and performed a qualitative examination of the reasons given for hiring preferences.

Results: We found that a mean population of approximately 85,000 is needed to support EP-only staffing practices. In 2012, only 14 (11.8%) of Iowa’s EDs were staffed exclusively with EPs. Seventy-two (60.5%) staff with a combination of EPs and FPs, 33 (27.7%) staff with FPs alone, and 72 (60.5%) have physician assistants or nurse practitioners working in solo coverage for at least part of the week. Comparing the data from 2008 and 2012, there is no statistical change in the hiring of EPs versus FPs over the 4 years (Chi-square 0.68, p=0.7118), although there is a significant increase in the number of APPs in solo practice (Chi-square 11.36, p= 0.0008). Administrators at hospitals cited several factors for preferring to hire EPs: quality of care provided by EPs, availability of EPs, high patient acuity, and high patient volume.

Conclusion: Many EDs in Iowa remain staffed by family medicine-trained physicians and are being increasingly staffed by APPs. Without the contribution of family physicians, large areas of the state would be unable to provide adequate emergency care. Board-certified emergency physicians remain concentrated in urban areas of the state, where patient volumes and acuity support their hiring. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):186-190.]

Endemic Infections

Emergency Physicians’ Adherence to Center for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance During the 2009 Influenza A H1N1 Pandemic

Introduction: Little is known regarding compliance with management guidelines for epidemic influenza in adult emergency department (ED) settings during the 2009 novel influenza A (H1N1) epidemic, especially in relation to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.

Methods: We investigated all patients with a clinical diagnosis of influenza at an inner-city tertiary academic adult ED with an annual census of approximately 60,000 visits from May 2008 to December 2009. We aimed to determine patterns of presentation and management for adult patients with an ED diagnosis of influenza during the H1N1 pandemic, using seasonal influenza (pre-H1N1) as reference and to determine the ED provider’s adherence to American College of Emergency Physicians and CDC guidance during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. Adherence to key elements of CDC 2009 H1N1 guidance was defined as (1) the proportion of admitted patients who were recommended to receive testing or treatment who actually received testing for influenza or treatment with antivirals; and (2) the proportion of high-risk patients who were supposed to be treated who actually were treated with antivirals.

Results: Among 339 patients with clinically diagnosed influenza, 88% occurred during the H1N1 pandemic. Patients were similarly managed during both phases. Median length of visit (pre-H1N1: 385 min, H1N1: 355 min, P > 0.05) and admission rates (pre-H1N1: 8%, H1N1: 11%, P > 0.05) were similar between the 2 groups. 28% of patients in the pre-H1N1 group and 16% of patients in the H1N1 group were prescribed antibiotics during their ED visits (P > 0.05). There were 34 admitted patients during the pandemic;, 30 (88%) of them received influenza testing in the ED, and 22 (65%) were prescribed antivirals in the ED. Noticeably, 19 (56%) of the 34 admitted patients, including 6 with a positive influenza test, received antibiotic treatment during their ED stay.

Conclusion: During the recent H1N1 pandemic, most admitted patients received ED diagnostic testing corresponding to the current recommended guidance. Antibiotic treatment for ED patients admitted with suspected influenza is not uncommon. However, less than 70% of admitted patients and less than 50% of high-risk patients were treated with antivirals during their ED visit, indicating a specific call for closer adherence to guidelines in future influenza pandemics. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):191-199.]

Injury Prevention and Population Health

Compliance with an Ordinance Requiring the Use of Personal Flotation Devices by Children in Public Waterways

Introduction: For children ages 1-14, 21.6% of drowning cases involve swimming, wading, or playing in natural bodies of water, such as rivers and lakes. Personal flotation devices (PFDs) are believed to be an effective prevention measure. We measure compliance with city and county ordinances, publicized but not actively enforced, requiring that PFDs be worn by children accessing public bodies of water in Sacramento County, California.

Methods: During June-August 2010, volunteers conducted 79 observation sessions at three popular local river beaches where PFDs were available for use at no cost. They recorded personal characteristics and PFD use for 1,727 children in or very near the water and believed to be 0-13 years of age (the age covered by the ordinances). We used logistic regression to quantify differences in use by subject characteristics and study site.

Results: The prevalence of PFD use was 29.9% overall, with large and significant differences by age: < 1, 55.6%; 1-4, 37.6%; 5-10, 29.4%; 10-13, 14.6%; P < 0.0001. Usage did not vary significantly by sex or race/ethnicity, and was somewhat higher at one study site (33.1%) than at the others (25.9% and 27.3%), P = 0.009.

Conclusion: The combination of a statutory requirement and a cost-elimination strategy was associated with moderate rates of PFD use that were highest among young children. [West J Emerg Med 2013;14(2):200-203.]

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