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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 16, Issue 5, 2015

Volume 16, Issue 5, 2015

Emergency Department Operations

Scribe Impacts on Provider Experience, Operations, and Teaching in an Academic Emergency Medicine Practice

Introduction: Physicians dedicate substantial time to documentation. Scribes are sometimes used to improve efficiency by performing documentation tasks, although their impacts have not been prospectively evaluated. Our objective was to assess a scribe program’s impact on emergency department (ED) throughput, physician time utilization, and job satisfaction in a large academic emergency medicine practice.

Methods: We evaluated the intervention using pre- and post-intervention surveys and administrative data. All site physicians were included. Pre- and post-intervention data were collected in four-month periods one year apart. Primary outcomes included changes in monthly average ED length of stay (LOS), provider-specific average relative value units (RVUs) per hour (raw and normalized to volume), self-reported estimates of time spent teaching, self-reported estimates of time spent documenting, and job satisfaction. We analyzed data using descriptive statistics and appropriate tests for paired pre-post differences in continuous, categorical, and ranked variables.

Results: Pre- and post-survey response rates were 76.1% and 69.0%, respectively. Most responded positively to the intervention, although 9.5% reported negative impressions. There was a 36% reduction (25%-50%; p<0.01) in time spent documenting and a 30% increase (11%-46%, p<0.01) in time spent in direct patient contact. No statistically significant changes were seen in job satisfaction or perception of time spent teaching. ED volume increased by 88 patients per day (32-146, p=0.04) pre- to post- and LOS was unchanged; rates of patients leaving against medical advice dropped, and rates of patients leaving without being seen increased. RVUs per hour increased 5.5% and per patient 5.3%; both were statistically significant. No statistically significant changes were seen in patients seen per hour. There was moderate correlation between changes in ED volume and changes in productivity metrics.

Conclusion: Scribes were well received in our practice. Documentation time was substantially reduced and redirected primarily to patient care. Despite an ED volume increase, LOS was maintained, with fewer patients leaving against medical advice but more leaving without being seen. RVUs per hour and per patient both increased.


Identifying Patient Door-to-Room Goals to Minimize Left-Without-Being-Seen Rates

Introduction: Emergency department (ED) patients in the leave-without-being-seen (LWBS) group risk problems of inefficiency, medical risk, and financial loss. The goal at our hospital is to limit LWBS to <1%. This study’s goal was to assess the influence on LWBS associated with prolonging intervals between patient presentation and placement in an exam room (DoorRoom time). This study’s major aim was to identify DoorRoom cutoffs that maximize likelihood of meeting the LWBS goal (i.e. <1%).Methods: We conducted the study over one year (8/13-8/14) using operations data for an ED with annual census ~50,000. For each study day, the LWBS endpoint (i.e. was LWBS <1%: “yes or no”) and the mean DoorRoom time were recorded. We categorized DoorRoom means by intervals starting with ≤10min and ending at >60min. Multivariate logistic regression was used to assess for DoorRoom cutoffs predicting high LWBS, while adjusting for patient acuity (triage scores and admission %) and operations parameters. We used predictive marginal probability to assess utility of the regression-generated cutoffs. We defined statistical significance at p<0.05 and report odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI). Results: Univariate results suggested a primary DoorRoom cutoff of 20’, to maintain a high likelihood (>85%) of meeting the LWBS goal. A secondary DoorRoom cutoff was indicated at 35’, to prevent a precipitous drop-off in likelihood of meeting the LWBS goal, from 61.1% at 35’ to 34.4% at 40’. Predictive marginal analysis using multivariate techniques to control for operational and patient-acuity factors confirmed the 20’ and 35’ cutoffs as significant (p<0.001). Days with DoorRoom between 21-35’ were 74% less likely to meet the LWBS goal than days with DoorRoom ≤20’ (OR 0.26, 95% CI [0.13-0.53]). Days with DoorRoom >35’ were a further 75% less likely to meet the LWBS goal than days with DoorRoom of 21-35’ (OR 0.25, 95% CI [0.15-0.41]).Conclusion: Operationally useful DoorRoom cutoffs can be identified, which allow for rational establishment of performance goals for the ED attempting to minimize LWBS.

Endemic Infections

Identify-Isolate-Inform: A Modified Tool for Initial Detection and Management of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Patients in the Emergency Department

Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a novel infectious disease caused by a coronavirus (MERS-CoV) first reported in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. MERS later spread to other countries in the Arabian Peninsula, followed by an outbreak in South Korea in 2015. At least 26 countries have reported MERS cases, and these numbers may increase over time. Due to international travel opportunities, all countries are at risk of imported cases of MERS, even if outbreaks do not spread globally. Therefore, it is essential for emergency department (ED) personnel to be able to rapidly assess MERS risk and take immediate actions if indicated. The Identify-Isolate-Inform (3I) tool, originally conceived for initial detection and management of Ebola virus disease patients in the ED and later adjusted for measles, can be adapted for real-time use for any emerging infectious disease. This paper reports a modification of the 3I tool for use in initial detection and management of patients under investigation for MERS. Following an assessment of epidemiologic risk factors, including travel to countries with current MERS transmission and contact with patients with confirmed MERS within 14 days, patients are risk stratified by type of exposure coupled with symptoms of fever and respiratory illness. If criteria are met, patients must be immediately placed into airborne infection isolation (or a private room until this type of isolation is available) and the emergency practitioner must alert the hospital infection prevention and control team and the local public health department. The 3I tool will facilitate rapid categorization and triggering of appropriate time-sensitive actions for patients presenting to the ED at risk for MERS.

Tuberculoma Induced Seizures

Seizures in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) patients can be caused by a wide variety of opportunistic infections, and, especially in developing countries, tuberculosis (TB) should be high on the differential. In India, TB is the most common opportunistic infection in HIV and it can have several different central nervous system manifestations, including intracranial tuberculomas. In this case, an HIV patient presenting with new-onset seizure and fever was diagnosed with tuberculous meningitis and multiple intracranial tuberculomas. The patient received standard TB medications, steroids, and anticonvulsants in the emergency department and was admitted for further care.

Health Outcomes

Diagnosis of Aortic Dissection in Emergency Department Patients is Rare

Introduction: Aortic dissection is a rare event. While the most frequent symptom is chest pain, that is a common emergency department (ED) chief complaint and other diseases causing chest pain occur much more often. Furthermore, 20% of dissections are without chest pain and 6% are painless. For these reasons, diagnosing dissections may be challenging. Our goal was to determine the number of total ED and atraumatic chest pain patients for every aortic dissection diagnosed by emergency physicians.Methods: Design: Retrospective cohort. Setting: 33 suburban and urban New York and New Jersey EDs with annual visits between 8,000 and 80,000. Participants: Consecutive patients seen by emergency physicians from 1-1-1996 through 12-31-2010. Observations: We identified aortic dissection and atraumatic chest pain patients using the International Classification of Diseases 9th Revision and Clinical Modification codes. We then calculated the number of total ED and atraumatic chest pain patients for every aortic dissection, along with 95% confidence intervals (CIs).Results: From a database of 9.5 million ED visits, we identified 782 aortic dissections or one for every 12,200 (95% CI [11,400-13,100]) visits. The mean age of dissection patients was 66±16 years and 38% were female. There were 763,000 (8%) with atraumatic chest pain diagnoses. Thus, there is one dissection for every 980 (95% CI [910-1,050]) atraumatic chest pain patients.Conclusion: The diagnosis of aortic dissections by emergency physicians is rare and challenging. An emergency physician seeing 3,000 to 4,000 patients a year would diagnose an aortic dissection approximately every three to four years.

Not Just an Urban Phenomenon: Uninsured Rural Trauma Patients at Increased Risk for Mortality

Introduction: National studies of largely urban populations showed increased risk of traumatic death among uninsured patients, as compared to those insured. No similar studies have been done for major trauma centers serving rural states. Methods: We performed retrospective analyses using trauma registry records from adult, non-burn patients admitted to a single American College of Surgeons-certified Level 1 trauma center in a rural state (2003-2010, n=13,680) and National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB) registry records (2002-2008, n=380,182). Risk of traumatic death was estimated using multivariable logistic regression analysis. Results: We found that 9% of trauma center patients and 27% of NTDB patients were uninsured. Overall mortality was similar for both (~4.5%). After controlling for covariates, uninsured trauma center patients were almost five times more likely to die and uninsured NTDB patients were 75% more likely to die than commercially insured patients. The risk of death among Medicaid patients was not significantly different from the commercially insured for either dataset. Conclusion: Our results suggest that even with an inclusive statewide trauma system and an emergency department that does not triage by payer status, uninsured patients presenting to the trauma center were at increased risk of traumatic death relative to patients with commercial insurance.

Treatment Failure Outcomes for Emergency Department Patients with Skin and Soft Tissue Infections

Introduction: Skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) are commonly evaluated in the emergency department (ED). Our objectives were to identify predictors of SSTI treatment failure within one week post-discharge in patients with cutaneous abscesses, as well as to identify predictors of recurrence within three months in that proportion of participants.Methods: This was a sub-analysis of a parent study, conducted at two EDs, evaluating a new, nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) for Staphylococcus aureus in ED patients. Patients ≥18 years receiving incision and drainage (I&D) were eligible. Patient-reported outcome data on improvement of fever, swelling, erythema, drainage, and pain were collected using a structured abstraction form at one week, one month, and three months post ED visit. Results: We enrolled 272 participants (20 from a feasibility study and 252 in this trial), of which 198 (72.8%) completed one-week follow up. Twenty-seven additional one-week outcomes were obtained through medical record review rather than by the one-week follow-up phone call. One hundred ninety-three (73%) patients completed either the one- or three-month follow up. Most patients recovered from their initial infection within one week, with 10.2% of patients reporting one-week treatment failure. The odds of treatment failure were 66% lower for patients who received antibiotics following I&D at their initial visit. Overall SSTI recurrence rate was 28.0% (95% CI [21.6%-34.4%]) and associated with contact with someone infected with methicillin resistant S. aureus (MRSA), previous SSTI history, or clinician use of wound packing. Conclusion: Treatment failure was reduced by antibiotic use, whereas SSTI recurrence was associated with prior contact, SSTI, or use of packing.

Patient Safety

Accuracy of ‘My Gut Feeling:’ Comparing System 1 to System 2 Decision-Making for Acuity Prediction, Disposition and Diagnosis in an Academic Emergency Department

Introduction: Current cognitive sciences describe decision-making using the dual-process theory, where a System 1 is intuitive and a System 2 decision is hypothetico-deductive. We aim to compare the performance of these systems in determining patient acuity, disposition and diagnosis.

Methods: Prospective observational study of emergency physicians assessing patients in the emergency department of an academic center. Physicians were provided the patient’s chief complaint and vital signs and allowed to observe the patient briefly. They were then asked to predict acuity, final disposition (home, intensive care unit (ICU), non-ICU bed) and diagnosis. A patient was classified as sick by the investigators using previously published objective criteria.

Results: We obtained 662 observations from 289 patients. For acuity, the observers had a sensitivity of 73.9% (95% CI [67.7-79.5%]), specificity 83.3% (95% CI [79.5-86.7%]), positive predictive value 70.3% (95% CI [64.1-75.9%]) and negative predictive value 85.7% (95% CI [82.0-88.9%]). For final disposition, the observers made a correct prediction in 80.8% (95% CI [76.1-85.0%]) of the cases. For ICU admission, emergency physicians had a sensitivity of 33.9% (95% CI [22.1-47.4%]) and a specificity of 96.9% (95% CI [94.0-98.7%]). The correct diagnosis was made 54% of the time with the limited data available.

Conclusion: System 1 decision-making based on limited information had a sensitivity close to 80% for acuity and disposition prediction, but the performance was lower for predicting ICU admission and diagnosis. System 1 decision-making appears insufficient for final decisions in these domains but likely provides a cognitive framework for System 2 decision-making.

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Central Venous Catheter Intravascular Malpositioning: Causes, Prevention, Diagnosis, and Correction

Despite the level of skill of the operator and the use of ultrasound guidance, central venous catheter (CVC) placement can result in CVC malpositioning, an unintended placement of the catheter tip in an inadequate vessel. CVC malpositioning is not a complication of central line insertion; however, undiagnosed CVC malpositioning can be associated with significant morbidity and mortality. The objectives of this review were to describe factors associated with intravascular malpositioning of CVCs inserted via the neck and chest and to offer ways of preventing, identifying, and correcting such malpositioning. A literature search of PubMed, Cochrane Library, and MD Consult was performed in June 2014. By searching for “Central line malposition” and then for “Central venous catheters intravascular malposition,” we found 178 articles written in English. Of those, we found that 39 were relevant to our objectives and included them in our review. According to those articles, intravascular CVC malpositioning is associated with the presence of congenital and acquired anatomical variants, catheter insertion in left thoracic venous system, inappropriate bevel orientation upon needle insertion, and patient’s body habitus variants. Although plain chest radiography is the standard imaging modality for confirming catheter tip location, signs and symptoms of CVC malpositioning even in presence of normal or inconclusive conventional radiography findings should prompt the use of additional diagnostic methods to confirm or rule out CVC malpositioning. With very few exceptions, the recommendation in cases of intravascular CVC malpositioning is to remove and relocate the catheter. Knowing the mechanisms of CVC malpositioning and how to prevent, identify, and correct CVC malpositioning could decrease harm to patients with this condition.

Pediatric Tape: Accuracy and Medication Delivery in the National Park Service

Introduction: The objective is to evaluate the accuracy of medication dosing and the time to medication administration in the prehospital setting using a novel length-based pediatric emergency resuscitation tape.

Methods: This study was a two-period, two-treatment crossover trial using simulated pediatric patients in the prehospital setting. Each participant was presented with two emergent scenarios; participants were randomized to which case they encountered first, and to which case used the National Park Service (NPS) emergency medical services (EMS) length-based pediatric emergency resuscitation tape. In the control (without tape) case, providers used standard methods to determine medication dosing (e.g. asking parents to estimate the patient’s weight); in the intervention (with tape) case, they used the NPS EMS length-based pediatric emergency resuscitation tape. Each scenario required dosing two medications (Case 1 [febrile seizure] required midazolam and acetaminophen; Case 2 [anaphylactic reaction] required epinephrine and diphenhydramine). Twenty NPS EMS providers, trained at the Parkmedic/Advanced Emergency Medical Technician level, served as study participants.

Results: The only medication errors that occurred were in the control (no tape) group (without tape: 5 vs. with tape: 0, p=0.024). Time to determination of medication dose was significantly shorter in the intervention (with tape) group than the control (without tape) group, for three of the four medications used. In case 1, time to both midazolam and acetaminophen was significantly faster in the intervention (with tape) group (midazolam: 8.3 vs. 28.9 seconds, p=0.005; acetaminophen: 28.6 seconds vs. 50.6 seconds, p=0.036). In case 2, time to epinephrine did not differ (23.3 seconds vs. 22.9 seconds, p=0.96), while time to diphenhydramine was significantly shorter in the intervention (with tape) group (13 seconds vs. 37.5 seconds, p<0.05).

Conclusion: Use of a length-based pediatric emergency resuscitation tape in the prehospital setting was associated with significantly fewer dosing errors and faster time-to-medication administration in simulated pediatric emergencies. Further research in a clinical field setting to prospectively confirm these findings is needed.

Treatment Protocol Assessment

Sensitivity of a Clinical Decision Rule and Early Computed Tomography in Aneurysmal Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

Introduction: Application of a clinical decision rule for subarachnoid hemorrhage, in combination with cranial computed tomography (CT) performed within six hours of ictus (early cranial CT), may be able to reasonably exclude a diagnosis of aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (aSAH). This study’s objective was to examine the sensitivity of both early cranial CT and a previously validated clinical decision rule among emergency department (ED) patients with aSAH and a normal mental status.Methods: Patients were evaluated in the 21 EDs of an integrated health delivery system between January 2007 and June 2013. We identified by chart review a retrospective cohort of patients diagnosed with aSAH in the setting of a normal mental status and performance of early cranial CT. Variables comprising the SAH clinical decision rule (age >40, presence of neck pain or stiffness, headache onset with exertion, loss of consciousness at headache onset) were abstracted from the chart and assessed for inter-rater reliability. Results: One hundred fifty-five patients with aSAH met study inclusion criteria. The sensitivity of early cranial CT was 95.5% (95% CI [90.9-98.2]). The sensitivity of the SAH clinical decision rule was also 95.5% (95% CI [90.9-98.2]). Since all false negative cases for each diagnostic modality were mutually independent, the combined use of both early cranial CT and the clinical decision rule improved sensitivity to 100% (95% CI [97.6-100.0]). Conclusion: Neither early cranial CT nor the SAH clinical decision rule demonstrated ideal sensitivity for aSAH in this retrospective cohort. However, the combination of both strategies might optimize sensitivity for this life-threatening disease.

Triple Rule Out versus CT Angiogram Plus Stress Test for Evaluation of Chest Pain in the Emergency Department

Introduction: Undifferentiated chest pain in the emergency department (ED) is a diagnostic challenge. One approach includes a dedicated chest computed tomography (CT) for pulmonary embolism or dissection followed by a cardiac stress test (TRAD). An alternative strategy is a coronary CT angiogram with concurrent chest CT (Triple Rule Out, TRO). The objective of this study was to describe the ED patient course and short-term safety for these evaluation methods.Methods: This was a retrospective observational study of adult patients presenting to a large, community ED for acute chest pain who had non-diagnostic electrocardiograms (ECGs) and normal biomarkers. We collected demographics, ED length of stay, hospital costs, and estimated radiation exposures. We evaluated 30-day return visits for major adverse cardiac events.Results: A total of 829 patients underwent TRAD, and 642 patients had TRO. Patients undergoing TRO tended to be younger (mean 52.3 vs 56.5 years) and were more likely to be male (42.4% vs. 30.4%). TRO patients tended to have a shorter ED length of stay (mean 14.45 vs. 21.86 hours), to incur less cost (median $449.83 vs. $1147.70), and to be exposed to less radiation (median 7.18 vs. 16.6mSv). No patient in either group had a related 30-day revisit.Conclusion: Use of TRO is feasible for assessment of chest pain in the ED. Both TRAD and TRO safely evaluated patients. Prospective studies investigating this diagnostic strategy are needed to further assess this approach to ED chest pain evaluation.

Comparing an Unstructured Risk Stratification to Published Guidelines in Acute Coronary Syndromes

Introduction: Guidelines are designed to encompass the needs of the majority of patients with a particular condition. The American Heart Association (AHA) in conjunction with the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) developed risk stratification guidelines to aid physicians with accurate and efficient diagnosis and management of patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS). While useful in a primary care setting, in the unique environment of an emergency department (ED), the feasibility of incorporating guidelines into clinical workflow remains in question. We aim to compare emergency physicians’ (EP) clinical risk stratification ability to AHA/ACC/ACEP guidelines for ACS, and assessed each for accuracy in predicting ACS.

Methods: We conducted a prospective observational cohort study in an urban teaching hospital ED. All patients presenting to the ED with chest pain who were evaluated for ACS had two risk stratification scores assigned: one by the treating physician based on clinical evaluation and the other by the AHA/ACC/ACEP guideline aforementioned. The patient’s ACS risk stratification classified by the EP was compared to AHA/ACC/ACEP guidelines. Patients were contacted at 30 days following the index ED visit to determine all cause mortality, unscheduled hospital/ED revisits, and objective cardiac testing performed.

Results: We enrolled 641 patients presenting for evaluation by 21 different EPs. There was a difference between the physician’s clinical assessment used in the ED, and the AHA/ACC/ACEP task force guidelines. EPs were more likely to assess patients as low risk (40%), while AHA/ACC/ACEP guidelines were more likely to classify patients as intermediate (45%) or high (45%) risk. Of the 119 (19%) patients deemed high risk by EP evaluation, 38 (32%) were diagnosed with ACS. AHA/ACC/ACEP guidelines classified only 57 (9%) patients low risk with 56 (98%) of those patients diagnosed with no ACS.

Conclusion: In the ED, physicians are more efficient at correctly placing patients with underlying ACS into a high-risk category. A small percentage of patients were considered low risk when applying AHA/ACC/ACEP guidelines, which demonstrates how clinical insight is often required to make an efficient assessment of cardiac risk and established criteria may be overly conservative when applied to an acute care population.

Critical Care

Interposed Abdominal Compression CPR for an Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest Victim Failing Traditional CPR

Interposed abdominal compression CPR is an alternative technique to traditional CPR that can improve perfusion and lead to restoration of circulation in patients with chest wall deformity either acquired through vigorous CPR or co-morbidity such as COPD.  We report a case of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest where IAC-CPR allowed for restoration of spontaneous circulation and eventual full neurologic recovery when traditional CPR was failing to generate adequate pulses with chest compression alone.

Injury Prevention and Population Health

Injuries Following Segway Personal Transporter Accidents: Case Report and Review of the Literature

The Segway® self-balancing personal transporter has been used as a means of transport for sightseeing tourists, military, police and emergency medical personnel. Only recently have reports been published about serious injuries that have been sustained while operating this device. This case describes a 67-year-old male who sustained an oblique fracture of the shaft of the femur while using the Segway® for transportation around his community. We also present a review of the literature.

Healthcare Utilization

Invasive Mechanical Ventilation in California Over 2000-2009: Implications for Emergency Medicine

Introduction: Patients who require invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV) often represent a sequence of care between the emergency department (ED) and intensive care unit (ICU). Despite being the most populous state, little information exists to define patterns of IMV use within the state of California.

Methods: We examined data from the masked Patient Discharge Database of California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development from 2000-2009. Adult patients who received IMV during their stay were identified using the International Classification of Diseases 9th Revision and Clinical Modification procedure codes (96.70, 96.71, 96.72). Patients were divided into age strata (18-34yr, 35-64yr, and >65yr). Using descriptive statistics and regression analyses, for IMV discharges during the study period, we quantified the number of ED vs. non-ED based admissions; changes in patient characteristics and clinical outcome; evaluated the marginal costs for IMV; determined predictors for prolonged acute mechanical ventilation (PAMV, i.e. IMV>96hr); and projected the number of IMV discharges and ED-based admissions by year 2020.

Results: There were 696,634 IMV discharges available for analysis. From 2000–2009, IMV discharges increased by 2.8%/year: n=60,933 (293/100,000 persons) in 2000 to n=79,868 (328/100,000 persons) in 2009. While ED-based admissions grew by 3.8%/year, non-ED-based admissions remained stable (0%). During 2000-2009, fastest growth was noted for 1) the 35–64 year age strata; 2) Hispanics; 3) patients with non-Medicare public insurance; and 4) patients requiring PAMV. Average total patient cost-adjusted charges per hospital discharge increased by 29% from 2000 (from $42,528 to $60,215 in 2014 dollars) along with increases in the number of patients discharged to home and skilled nursing facilities. Higher marginal costs were noted for younger patients (ages 18-34yr), non-whites, and publicly insured patients. Some of the strongest predictors for PAMV were age 35-64 years (OR=1.12; 95% CI [1.09-1.14], p<0.05); non-Whites; and non-Medicare public insurance. Our models suggest that by 2020, IMV discharges will grow to n=153,153 (377 IMV discharges/100,000 persons) with 99,095 admitted through the ED.

Conclusion: Based on sustained growth over the past decade, by the year 2020, we project a further increase to 153,153 IMV discharges with 99,095 admitted through the ED. Given limited ICU bed capacities, ongoing increases in the number and type of IMV patients have the potential to adversely affect California EDs that often admit patients to ICUs.

Patient Communication

Patient Admission Preferences and Perceptions

Introduction: Understanding patient perceptions and preferences of hospital care is important to improve patients’ hospitalization experiences and satisfaction. The objective of this study was to investigate patient preferences and perceptions of hospital care, specifically differences between intensive care unit (ICU) and hospital floor admissions.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional survey of emergency department (ED) patients who were presented with a hypothetical scenario of a patient with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). We surveyed their preferences and perceptions of hospital care related to this scenario. A closed-ended questionnaire provided quantitative data on patient preferences and perceptions of hospital care and an open-ended questionnaire evaluated factors that may not have been captured with the closed-ended questionnaire.

Results: Out of 302 study patients, the ability for family and friends to visit (83%), nurse availability (80%), and physician availability (79%) were the factors most commonly rated “very important,” while the cost of hospitalization (62%) and length of hospitalization (59%) were the factors least commonly rated “very important.” When asked to choose between the ICU and the floor if they were the patient in the scenario, 33 patients (10.9%) choose the ICU, 133 chose the floor (44.0%), and 136 (45.0%) had no preference.

Conclusion: Based on a hypothetical scenario of mild TBI, the majority of patients preferred admission to the floor or had no preference compared to admission to the ICU. Humanistic factors such as the availability of doctors and nurses and the ability to interact with family appear to have a greater priority than systematic factors of hospitalization, such as length and cost of hospitalization or length of time in the ED waiting for an in-patient bed.


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Evaluation of Social Media Use by Emergency Medicine Residents and Faculty

Introduction: Clinicians and residency programs are increasing their use of social media (SM) websites for educational and promotional uses, yet little is known about the use of these sites by residents and faculty. The objective of the study is to assess patterns of SM use for personal and professional purposes among emergency medicine (EM) residents and faculty.

Methods: In this multi-site study, an 18-question survey was sent by e-mail to the residents and faculty in 14 EM programs and to the Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors (CORD) listserv via the online tool SurveyMonkey™. We compiled descriptive statistics, including assessment with the chi-square test or Fisher’s exact test. StatsDirect software (v 2.8.0, StatsDirect, Cheshire, UK) was used for all analyses.

Results: We received 1,314 responses: 63% of respondents were male, 40% were <30 years of age, 39% were between the ages 31 and 40, and 21% were older than 40. The study group consisted of 772 residents and 542 faculty members (15% were program directors, 21% were assistant or associate PDs, 45% were core faculty, and 19% held other faculty positions. Forty-four percent of respondents completed residency more than 10 years ago. Residents used SM markedly more than faculty for social interactions with family and friends (83% vs 65% [p<0.0001]), entertainment (61% vs 47% [p<0.0001]), and videos (42% vs 23% [p=0.0006]). Residents used Facebook™ and YouTube™ more often than faculty (86% vs 67% [p<0.001]; 53% vs 46% [p=0.01]), whereas residents used Twitter™ (19% vs 26% [p=0.005]) and LinkedIn™ (15% vs 32% [p<0.0001]) less than faculty. Overall, residents used SM sites more than faculty, notably in daily use (30% vs 24% [p<0.001]). For professional use, residents were most interested in its use for open positions/hiring (30% vs 18% [p<0.0001]) and videos (33% vs 26% [p=0.005]) and less interested than faculty with award postings (22% vs 33% [p<0.0001]) or publications (30% vs 38% [p=0.0007]).

Conclusion: EM residents and faculty have different patterns and interests in the personal and professional uses of social media. Awareness of these utilization patterns could benefit future educational endeavors.

Effectiveness of a 40-minute Ophthalmologic Examination Teaching Session on Medical Student Learning

Introduction: Emergency physicians are among the few specialists besides ophthalmologists who commonly perform ophthalmologic examinations using the slit lamp and other instruments. However, most medical schools in the United States do not require an ophthalmology rotation upon completion. Teaching procedural skills to medical students can be challenging due to limited resources and instructor availability. Our study assesses the effectiveness of a 40-minute hands-on teaching session on ophthalmologic examination for medical students using only two instructors and low-cost equipment.

Methods: We performed an interventional study using a convenience sample of subjects. Pre- and post-workshop questionnaires on students’ confidence in performing ophthalmologic examination were administered. We used a paired t-test and Wilcoxon rank test to analyze the data.

Results: Of the 30 participants in the study, the mean age was 25 and the majority were first-year medical students. The students’ confidence in performing every portion of the ophthalmologic exam increased significantly after the teaching session. We found that the average confidence level before the teaching session were below 2 on a 1-5 Likert scale (1 being the least confident). Confidence levels in using the slit lamp had the highest improvement among the skills taught (2.17 95% CI [1.84-2.49]). Students reported the least improvement in their confidence in assessing extraocular movements (0.73, 95% CI [0.30-1.71]) and examining pupillary function (0.73, 95% CI [0.42-1.04]). We observed the biggest difference in median confidence level in the use of the tonometer (4 with a p-value of <0.05).

Conclusion: A 40-minute structured hands-on training session can significantly improve students’ confidence levels in ophthalmologic skills.

Prehospital Care

Hand Washing Practices Among Emergency Medical Services Providers

Introduction: Hand hygiene is an important component of infection control efforts. Our primary and secondary goals were to determine the reported rates of hand washing and stethoscope cleaning in emergency medical services (EMS) workers, respectively.Methods: We designed a survey about hand hygiene practices. The survey was distributed to various national EMS organizations through e-mail. Descriptive statistics were calculated for survey items (responses on a Likert scale) and subpopulations of survey respondents to identify relationships between variables. We used analysis of variance to test differences in means between the subgroups.

Results: There were 1,494 responses. Overall, reported hand hygiene practices were poor among pre-hospital providers in all clinical situations. Women reported that they washed their hands more frequently than men overall, although the differences were unlikely to be clinically significant. Hygiene after invasive procedures was reported to be poor. The presence of available hand sanitizer in the ambulance did not improve reported hygiene rates but improved reported rates of cleaning the stethoscope (absolute difference 0.4, p=0.0003). Providers who brought their own sanitizer were more likely to clean their hands.

Conclusion: Reported hand hygiene is poor amongst pre-hospital providers. There is a need for future intervention to improve reported performance in pre-hospital provider hand washing.

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Telephone CPR Instructions in Emergency Dispatch Systems: Qualitative Survey of 911 Call Centers

Introduction: Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) is a leading cause of death. The 2010 American Heart Association Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC) Guidelines recognize emergency dispatch as an integral component of emergency medical service response to OHCA and call for all dispatchers to be trained to provide telephone cardiopulmonary resuscitation (T-CPR) pre-arrival instructions. To begin to measure and improve this critical intervention, this study describes a nationwide survey of public safety answering points (PSAPs) focusing on the current practices and resources available to provide T-CPR to callers with the overall goal of improving survival from OHCA.

Methods: We conducted this survey in 2010, identifying 5,686 PSAPs; 3,555 had valid e-mail addresses and were contacted. Each received a preliminary e-mail announcing the survey, an e-mail with a link to the survey, and up to three follow-up e-mails for non-responders. The survey contained 23 primary questions with sub-questions depending on the response selected.

Results: Of the 5,686 identified PSAPs in the United States, 3,555 (63%) received the survey, with 1,924/3,555 (54%) responding. Nearly all were public agencies (n=1,888, 98%). Eight hundred seventy-eight (46%) responding agencies reported that they provide no instructions for medical emergencies, and 273 (14%) reported that they are unable to transfer callers to another facility to provide T-CPR. Of the 1,924 respondents, 975 (51%) reported that they provide pre-arrival instructions for OHCA: 67 (3%) provide compression-only CPR instructions, 699 (36%) reported traditional CPR instructions (chest compressions with rescue breathing), 166 (9%) reported some other instructions incorporating ventilations and compressions, and 92 (5%) did not specify the type of instructions provided. A validation follow up showed no substantial difference in the provision of instructions for OHCA by non-responders to the survey.

Conclusion: This is the first large-scale, nationwide assessment of the practices of PSAPs in the United States regarding T-CPR for OHCA. These data showing that nearly half of the nation’s PSAPs do not provide T-CPR for OHCA, and very few PSAPs provide compression-only instructions, suggest that there is significant potential to improve the implementation of this critical link in the chain of survival for OHCA.


  • 2 supplemental files

Variability in Criteria for Emergency Medical Services Routing of Acute Stroke Patients to Designated Stroke Center Hospitals

Introduction: Comprehensive stroke systems of care include routing to the nearest designated stroke center hospital, bypassing non-designated hospitals. Routing protocols are implemented at the state or county level and vary in qualification criteria and determination of destination hospital. We surveyed all counties in the state of California for presence and characteristics of their prehospital stroke routing protocols.

Methods: Each county’s local emergency medical services agency (LEMSA) was queried for the presence of a stroke routing protocol. We reviewed these protocols for method of stroke identification and criteria for patient transport to a stroke center.

Results: Thirty-three LEMSAs serve 58 counties in California with populations ranging from 1,175 to nearly 10 million. Fifteen LEMSAs (45%) had stroke routing protocols, covering 23 counties (40%) and 68% of the state population. Counties with protocols had higher population density (1,500 vs. 140 persons per square mile). In the six counties without designated stroke centers, patients meeting criteria were transported out of county. Stroke identification in the field was achieved using the Cincinnati Prehospital Stroke Screen in 72%, Los Angeles Prehospital Stroke Screen in 7% and a county-specific protocol in 22%.

Conclusion: California EMS prehospital acute stroke routing protocols cover 68% of the state population and vary in characteristics including activation by symptom onset time and destination facility features, reflecting matching of system design to local geographic resources.

Technology in Emergency Medicine

Access to and Use of Point-of-Care Ultrasound in the Emergency Department

Introduction: Growing evidence supports emergency physician (EP)-performed point-of-care ultrasound (PoC US). However, there is a utilization gap between academic emergency departments (ED) and other emergency settings. We elucidated barriers to PoC US use in a multistate sample of predominantly non-academic EDs to inform future strategies to increase PoC US utilization, particularly in non-academic centers.

Methods: In 2010, we surveyed ED directors in five states (Arkansas, Hawaii, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wyoming; n=242 EDs) about general ED characteristics. In four states we determined barriers to PoC US use, proportion of EPs using PoC US, use privileges, and whether EPs can bill for PoC US.

Results: Response rates were >80% in each state. Overall, 47% of EDs reported PoC US availability. Availability varied by state, from 34% of EDs in Arkansas to 85% in Vermont. Availability was associated with higher ED visit volume, and percent of EPs who were board certified/board eligible in emergency medicine. The greatest barriers to use were limited training (70%), expense (39%), and limited need (perceived or real) (32%). When PoC US was used by EPs, 50% used it daily, 44% had privileges not requiring radiology confirmation, and 34% could bill separately for PoC US. Only 12% of EPs used it ≥80% of the time when placing central venous lines.

Conclusion: Only 47% of EDs in our five-state sample of predominantly non-academic EDs had PoC US immediately available. When available, the greatest barriers to use were limited training, expense, and limited need. Recent educational and technical advancements may help overcome these barriers.


  • 1 supplemental PDF

Focused Cardiac Ultrasound Diagnosis of Cor Triatriatum Sinistrum in Pediatric Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest in the adolescent population secondary to congenital heart disease (CHD) is rare. Focused cardiac ultrasound (FoCUS) in the emergency department (ED) can yield important clinical information, aid in resuscitative efforts during cardiac arrest and is commonly integrated into the evaluation of patients with pulseless electrical activity (PEA). We report a case of pediatric cardiac arrest in which FoCUS was used to diagnose a critical CHD known as cor triatriatum sinistrum as the likely cause for PEA cardiac arrest and help direct ED resuscitation.

  • 1 supplemental video

Ruptured Splenic Artery Aneurysm: Rare Cause of Shock Diagnosed with Bedside Ultrasound

Splenic artery aneurysm rupture is rare and potentially fatal. It has largely been reported in pregnant patients and typically not diagnosed until laparotomy. This case reports a constellation of clinical and sonographic findings that may lead clinicians to rapidly diagnose ruptured splenic artery aneurysm at the bedside. We also propose a rapid, but systematic sonographic approach to patients with atraumatic hemoperitoneum causing shock. It is yet another demonstration of the utility of bedside ultrasound in critically ill patients, specifically with undifferentiated shock.

  • 3 supplemental videos
  • 1 supplemental ZIP

Diagnostic Acumen

Emergency Physician Attitudes, Preferences, and Risk Tolerance for Stroke as a Potential Cause of Dizziness Symptoms

Introduction: We evaluated emergency physicians’ (EP) current perceptions, practice, and attitudes towards evaluating stroke as a cause of dizziness among emergency department patients.

Methods: We administered a survey to all EPs in a large integrated healthcare delivery system. The survey included clinical vignettes, perceived utility of historical and exam elements, attitudes about the value of and requisite post-test probability of a clinical prediction rule for dizziness. We calculated descriptive statistics and post-test probabilities for such a clinical prediction rule.

Results: The response rate was 68% (366/535). Respondents’ median practice tenure was eight years (37% female, 92% emergency medicine board certified). Symptom quality and typical vascular risk factors increased suspicion for stroke as a cause of dizziness. Most respondents reported obtaining head computed tomography (CT) (74%). Nearly all respondents used and felt confident using cranial nerve and limb strength testing. A substantial minority of EPs used the Epley maneuver (49%) and HINTS (head-thrust test, gaze-evoked nystagmus, and skew deviation) testing (30%); however, few EPs reported confidence in these tests’ bedside application (35% and 16%, respectively). Respondents favorably viewed applying a properly validated clinical prediction rule for assessment of immediate and 30-day stroke risk, but indicated it would have to reduce stroke risk to <0.5% to be clinically useful.

Conclusion: EPs report relying on symptom quality, vascular risk factors, simple physical exam elements, and head CT to diagnose stroke as the cause of dizziness, but would find a validated clinical prediction rule for dizziness helpful. A clinical prediction rule would have to achieve a 0.5% post-test stroke probability for acceptability.

Tension Pneumoperitoneum Caused by Obstipation

Emergency physicians are often required to evaluate and treat undifferentiated patients suffering acute hemodynamic compromise (AHC). It is helpful to apply a structured approach based on a differential diagnosis including all causes of AHC that can be identified and treated during a primary assessment. Tension pneumoperitoneum (TP) is an uncommon condition with the potential to be rapidly fatal. It is amenable to prompt diagnosis and stabilization in the emergency department. We present a case of a 16-year-old boy with TP to demonstrate how TP should be incorporated into a differential diagnosis when evaluating an undifferentiated patient with AHC.

ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction After Sumitriptan Ingestion in Patient with Normal Coronary Arteries

Sumitriptan has been used by millions as a migraine abortant; however, there have been studies showing angina pectoris, coronary vasospasm, and even myocardial infarction in patients with predisposing cardiac risk factors. The majority are patients using the injectable form subcutaneously. We present the case of a patient who presents with ST-elevation myocardial infarction, with no cardiovascular risk factors, after ingesting oral sumitriptan for her typical migraine.

Uterine Incarceration: Rare Cause of Urinary Retention in Healthy Pregnant Patients

Gravid uterine incarceration (GUI) is a condition that is well discussed in literature; however, there are few acute diagnoses in the emergency department (ED). We present a case series where three multiparous females presented to the ED with non-specific urinary symptoms. On bedside ultrasound, each patient was noted to have a retroverted uterus and inferior bladder entrapment under the sacral promontory. GUI is a rare condition that can lead to uremia, sepsis, peritonitis, and ultimately maternal death. Emergency physicians should include GUI in their differential diagnosis in this patient population and use bedside ultrasound as an adjunct to diagnosis.