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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 19, Issue 6, 2018

WestJEM Full-Text Issue

Health Policy

Substance Use, Homelessness, Mental Illness and Medicaid Coverage: A Set-up for High Emergency Department Utilization

Introduction: Frequent users of emergency departments (ED) account for 21–28% of all ED visits nationwide. The objective of our study was to identify characteristics unique to patients with psychiatric illness who are frequent ED users for mental health care. Understanding unique features of this population could lead to better care and lower healthcare costs.

Methods: This retrospective analysis of adult ED visits for mental healthcare from all acute care hospitals in California from 2009–2014 used patient-level data from California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. We calculated patient demographic and visit characteristics for patients with a primary diagnosis of a mental health disorder as a percentage of total adult ED visits. Frequent ED users were defined as patients with more than four visits in a 12-month period. We calculated adjusted rate ratios (aRR) to assess the association between classification as an ED frequent user and patient age, sex, payer, homelessness, and substance use disorder.

Results: In the study period, 846,867 ED visits for mental healthcare occurred including 238,892 (28.2%) visits by frequent users. Patients with a primary mental health diagnosis and a co-occurring substance use diagnosis in the prior 12 months (77% vs. 37%, aRR [4.02], 95% confidence interval [CI] [3.92-4.12]), homelessness (2.9% vs 1.1%, odds ratio [1.35], 95% [CI] [1.27-1.43]) were more likely to be frequent users. Those covered by Medicare (aRR [3.37], 95% CI [3.20-3.55]) or the state’s Medicaid program Medi-Cal (aRR [3.10], 95% CI [2.94-3.25]) were also more likely to be frequent users compared with those with private insurance coverage.  

Conclusion: Patients with substance use disorders, homelessness and public healthcare coverage are more likely to be frequent users of EDs for mental illness. Substance use and housing needs are important factors to address in this population.


Emergency Cardiac Care

Analysis of Patients with Ventricular Assist Devices Presenting to an Urban Emergency Department

Introduction: Left ventricular assist device (LVAD) insertion is an increasingly common intervention for patients with advanced heart failure; however, published literature on the emergency department (ED) presentation of this population is limited. The objective of this study was to characterize ED presentations of patients with LVADs with a focus on device-specific complications to inform provider education and preparation initiatives.

Methods: This was a retrospective chart review of all patients with LVADs followed at an urban academic medical center presenting to the ED over a five-year period (July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2014). Two abstractors reviewed 45 randomly selected charts to standardize the abstraction process and establish a priori categories for reason for presentation to the ED. Remaining charts were then divided evenly for review by one of the two abstractors. Primary outcomes for this study were (1) frequency of and (2) reason for presentation to the ED by patients with LVADs.

Results: Of 349 patients with LVADs identified, 143 (41.0%) had ED encounters during the study period. There were 620 total ED encounters, (range 1 to 32 encounters per patient, median=3, standard deviation=5.3). Among the encounters, 431 (69.5%) resulted in admission. The most common reasons for presentation were bleeding (e.g., gastrointestinal, epistaxis) (182, 29.4%); infection (127, 20.5%); heart failure exacerbation (68, 11.0%); pain (56, 9.0%); other (45, 7.3%); and arrhythmias (40, 6.5%). Fifty-two encounters (8.4%) were device-specific; these patients frequently presented with abnormal device readings (37, 6.0%). Interventions for device-specific presentations included anticoagulation regimen adjustment (16/52, 30.8%), pump exchange (9, 17.3%), and hardware repair (6, 11.5%). Pump thrombosis occurred in 23 cases (3.7% of all encounters). No patients required cardiopulmonary resuscitation or died in the ED.

Conclusion: This is the largest study known to the investigators to report the rate of ED presentations of patients with LVADs and provide analysis of device-specific presentations. In patients who do have device-specific ED presentations, pump thrombosis is a common diagnosis and can present without device alarms. Specialized LVAD education and preparation initiatives for ED providers should emphasize the recognition and management of the most common and critical conditions for this patient population, which have been identified in this study as bleeding, infection, heart failure, and pump thrombosis.


Health Outcomes

Predictors of Admission in Adult Unscheduled Return Visits to the Emergency Department

Introduction: The 72-hour unscheduled return visit (URV) of an emergency department (ED) patient is often used as a key performance indicator in emergency medicine. We sought to determine if URVs with admission to hospital (URVA) represent a distinct subgroup compared to unscheduled return visits with no admission (URVNA).  

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study of all 72-hour URVs in adults across 10 EDs in the Edmonton Zone (EZ) over a one-year period (January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015) using ED information-system data. URVA and URVNA populations were compared, and a multivariable analysis identified predictors of URVA.

Results: Analysis of 40,870 total URV records, including 3,363 URVAs, revealed predictors of URVA on the index visit including older age (>65 yrs, odds ratio [OR] 3.6), higher disease acuity (Canadian Emergency Department Triage and Acuity Scale [CTAS] 2, OR 2.6), gastrointestinal presenting complaint (OR 2.2), presenting to a referral hospital (OR 1.4), fewer annual ED visits (<4 visits, OR 2.0), and more hours spent in the ED (>12 hours, OR 2.0). A decrease in CTAS score (increase in disease acuity) upon return visit also increased the risk of admission (-1 CTAS level, OR 2.6). ED crowding at the index visit, as indicated by occupancy level, was not a predictor.

Conclusion: We demonstrate that URVA patients comprise a distinct subgroup of 72-hour URV patients. Risk factors for URVA are present at the index visit suggesting that patients at high risk for URVA may be identifiable prior to admission.


Social Disconnection Among Older Adults Receiving Care in the Emergency Department

Introduction: Social disconnection is a public health problem in older adults, as it can lead to decreased quality of life for this population. This study describes the prevalence of social disconnection and patient interest in social resources to address social disconnection among older adults receiving emergency department (ED) care.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of community-dwelling older adults (≥65 years) receiving care at two U.S. EDs. We described participant characteristics (demographic, social, and health variables), social disconnection prevalence, and desire for social resources using percentages and 95% confidence intervals. Then, we performed Chi Square tests and logistic regression to determine factors associated with positive screens for social disconnection.

Results: Of 289 participants, 51% were female and the median age was 72 (interquartile range: 69-78). Most (76%) engaged with the community regularly, and 68% reported driving. Regarding social disconnection, a substantial minority of participants reported feeling as if they were burdensome to others (37%); as if they didn’t belong (27%); or that people would be better off if they were gone (15%); 52% reported at least one of these. In separate regression analyses, the perceptions of being a burden or better off if gone were each significantly associated with needing help with routine tasks (odds ratio [OR] [5.87, 5.90]); perceived burden was associated with hospitalization in theprior month (OR [2.09]); and low belonging was associated with not engaging in the community regularly (OR [2.50]), not seeing family regularly (OR [3.82]), and difficulty affording food (OR [2.50]). Regarding potential ED referrals, most participants were interested in transportation options (68%), food assistance (58%), and mental health resources (55%). Participants experiencing difficulties affording food were interested in food and housing assistance (p=.03; p=.01).

Conclusion: Over half of this sample of older ED patients reported feeling socially disconnected. Social and functional health problems are often related and both must be addressed to optimize older ED patient quality of life. Future research should consider the impact of social disconnection on older adults discharged from the ED and work to develop ED services that could refer this population to programs that may decrease social disconnection.


Resource Utilization

Characterizing Highly Frequent Users of a Large Canadian Urban Emergency Department

Introduction: Highly frequent users (HFU) of the emergency department (ED) are a poorly defined population. This study describes patient and visit characteristics for Canadian ED HFU and patient subgroups with mental illness, substance misuse, or ≥ 30 yearly ED visits.

Methods: We reviewed health records from a random selection of adult patients whose visit frequency comprised the 99th percentile of yearly ED visits to The Ottawa Hospital. We excluded scheduled repeat ED assessments. We collected the following: 1) patient characteristics – age, sex, and comorbidities; and 2) ED visit characteristics – diagnosis category, length of stay, presentation time, consultation services, and final disposition. Two reviewers collected data, and we performed an inter-rater review to measure agreement. 

Results: We analyzed 3,164 ED visits for 261 patients in all subgroups overall. Within the HFU random selection, mean age was 53.4 ± 1.3, and 55.6% were female. Most patients had a fixed address (88.9%), and family physician (87.2%). Top ED diagnoses included musculoskeletal pain (9.6%), alcohol intoxication (8.5%), and abdominal pain (8.4%). Allied health (social work, geriatric emergency medicine, or community care access centre) was consulted for 5.9% of visits. In 52.7% of these cases, allied health services were not available at the time of presentation. 

Conclusion: HFU are a complex population who represent a marked proportion of annual ED visits. Our data indicate that there are opportunities to improve the current approaches to care. Future work examining ED-based screening and multi-disciplinary approaches for HFU may help reduce frequent ED presentations, and better serve this vulnerable population.

  • 1 supplemental file

Patient Communication

Obtaining History with a Language Barrier in the Emergency Department: Perhaps not a Barrier After All

Introduction: Patients with limited English proficiency may be at risk for incomplete history collection, potentially a patient safety issue. While federal law requires qualified medical interpreters be provided for these patients, little is known about the quality of information obtained in these encounters. Our study compared the medical histories obtained by physicians in the emergency department (ED) based on whether the patients primarily spoke English or Spanish. 

Methods: This was a prospective, observational study conducted at a single, urban, academic ED during a six-month time period. Resident and faculty physicians caring for adult patients with a chief complaint of chest or abdominal pain were eligible for participation. Patient encounters were directly observed by medical students who had been trained using simulated encounters. Observers documented which key historical data points were obtained by providers, including descriptions of pain (location, quality, severity, radiation, alleviating/aggravating factors), past medical/family/surgical history, and social history, in addition to the patient’s language in providing history. Providers, interpreters, and observers were blinded to the nature of the study. We used chi-square analyses to examine differences in whether specific elements were collected based on the primary language of the patient.

Results: Encounters with 753 patients were observed: 105 Spanish speaking and 648 English speaking. Chi-square analyses found no statistically significant differences in any history questions between Spanish-speaking and English-speaking patients, with the exception that questions regarding alleviating factors were asked  more often with Spanish-speaking patients (45%) than English-speaking patients (30%, p=.003). The average percentages of targeted history elements obtained in Spanish and English encounters were 60% and 57%, respectively.

Conclusion: In this study at a large, urban, academic ED, the medical histories obtained by physicians were similar between English-speaking and Spanish-speaking patients. This suggests that the physicians sought to obtain medical histories at the same level of detail despite the language barrier. One limitation to consider is the Hawthorne effect; however, providers and observers were blinded to the nature of the study in an attempt to minimize the effect.

  • 1 supplemental file

Treatment Protocol Assessment

Emergency Department Patient Satisfaction with Treatment of Low-risk Pulmonary Embolism

Introduction: Many emergency department (ED) patients with acute pulmonary embolism (PE) who meet low-risk criteria may be eligible for a short length of stay (LOS) (<24 hours), with expedited discharge home either directly from the ED or after a brief observation or hospitalization. We describe the association between expedited discharge and site of discharge on care satisfaction and quality of life (QOL) among patients with low-risk PE (PE Severity Index [PESI] Classes I-III).

Methods: This phone survey was conducted from September 2014 through April 2015 as part of a retrospective cohort study across 21 community EDs in Northern California. We surveyed low-risk patients with acute PE, treated predominantly with enoxaparin bridging and warfarin. All eligible patients were called 2-8 weeks after their index E D visit. PE-specific, patient-satisfaction questions addressed overall care, discharge instruction clarity, and LOS. We scored physical and mental QOL using a modified version of the validated Short Form Health Survey. Satisfaction and QOL were compared by LOS. For those with expedited discharge, we compared responses by site of discharge: ED vs. hospital, which included ED-based observation units. We used chi-square and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests as indicated.

Results: Survey response rate was 82.3% (424 of 515 eligible patients). Median age of respondents was 64 years; 47.4% were male. Of the 145 patients (34.2%) with a LOS<24 hours, 65 (44.8%) were discharged home from the ED. Of all patients, 8 9.6% were satisfied with their overall care and 94.1% found instructions clear. Sixty-six percent were satisfied with their LOS, whereas 17.5% would have preferred a shorter LOS and 16.5% a longer LOS. There were no significant differences in satisfaction between patients with LOS<24 hours vs. ≥24 hours (p>0.13 for all). Physical QOL scores were significantly higher for expedited-discharge patients (p=0.01). Patients with expedited discharge home from the ED vs. the hospital had no significant difference in satisfaction (p>0.20 for all) or QOL (p>0.19 for all).

Conclusion: ED patients with low-risk PE reported high satisfaction with their care in follow-up surveys. Expedited discharge (<24 hours) and site of discharge were not associated with differences in patient satisfaction.


  • 1 supplemental PDF


American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Deletes Sections from 2018 Stroke Guidelines

The updated American Heart Association (AHA)/American Stroke Association (ASA) Guidelines for the Early Management of Patients with Acute Ischemic Stroke were published in January 2018.1 The purpose of the guidelines is to provide an up-to-date, comprehensive set of recommendations for clinicians caring for adult patients with acute arterial ischemic stroke in a single document. The guidelines detail new and updated recommendations that reflect and incorporate the most recent literature in the evaluation and management of acute ischemic stroke. Some sections of the latest guidelines have sparked debate in the medical community.

Debate with regard to deciding the optimal diagnostic and treatment strategy for patients is healthy and anticipated with the release of new medical literature or recommendations. However, what is somewhat puzzling and unanticipated with the release of these new guidelines is that within two months of their release the AHA/ASA rescinded its recently released guidelines, publishing a “correction” in which several parts of the document have been deleted.2 An action such as this at the guideline level is unprecedented in recent history and has left stakeholders in the medical community somewhat confused as to the rationale for its occurrence. This article will inform the emergency medicine (EM) healthcare professional of the recent correction of the updated stroke guidelines, identify which sections have been removed (deleted), and will provide a brief summary of the pertinent updates (that have not been deleted) to the 2018 stroke guidelines that have particular relevance to the EM community.

Low-dose Ketamine Does Not Improve Migraine in the Emergency Department: A Randomized Placebo-controlled Trial

Introduction: Patients frequently present to the emergency department (ED) with migraine headaches. Although low-dose ketamine demonstrates analgesic efficacy for acute pain complaints in the ED, headaches have historically been excluded from these trials. This study evaluates the efficacy and safety of low-dose ketamine for treatment of acute migraine in the ED.

Methods: This randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial evaluated adults 18 to 65 years of age with acute migraine at a single academic ED. Subjects were randomized to receive 0.2 milligrams per kilogram  of intravenous (IV) ketamine or an equivalent volume of normal saline. Numeric Rating Scale (NRS-11) pain scores, categorical pain scores, functional disability scores, side effects, and adverse events were assessed at baseline (T0) and 30 minutes post-treatment (T30). The primary outcome was between-group difference in NRS score reduction at 30 minutes. 

Results: We enrolled 34 subjects (ketamine=16, placebo=18). Demographics were similar between treatment groups. There was no statistically significant difference in NRS score reductions between ketamine and placebo-treated groups after 30 minutes. Median NRS score reductions at 30 minutes were 1.0 (interquartile range [IQR] 0 to 2.25) for the ketamine group and 2.0 (IQR 0 to 3.75) for the placebo group. Between-group median difference at 30 minutes was -1.0 (IQR -2 to 1, p=0.5035). No significant differences between treatment groups occurred in categorical pain scores, functional disability scores, rescue medication request rate, and treatment satisfaction. Side Effect Rating Scale for Dissociative Anesthetics scores in the ketamine group were significantly greater for generalized discomfort at 30 minutes (p=0.008) and fatigue at 60 minutes (p=0.0216). No serious adverse events occurred in this study.

Conclusion: We found that  0.2mg/kg IV ketamine did not produce a greater reduction in NRS score compared to placebo for treatment of acute migraine in the ED. Generalized discomfort at 30 minutes was significantly greater in the ketamine group. Overall, ketamine was well tolerated by migraine-suffering subjects. To optimize low-dose ketamine as an acute migraine treatment, future studies should investigate more effective dosing and routes of administration.


Risk Factors in Pediatric Blunt Cervical Vascular Injury and Significance of Seatbelt Sign

Introduction: Computed tomography angiography (CTA) is used to screen patients for cerebrovascular injury after blunt trauma, but risk factors are not clearly defined in children. This modality has inherent radiation exposure. We set out to better delineate the risk factors associated with blunt cervical vascular injury (BCVI) in children with attention to the predictive value of seatbelt sign of the neck.

Methods: We collected demographic, clinical and radiographic data from the electronic medical record and a trauma registry for patients less than age 18 years who underwent CTA of the neck in their evaluation at a Level I trauma center from November 2002 to December 2014 (12 years). The primary outcome was BCVI.  

Results: We identified 11,446 pediatric blunt trauma patients of whom 375 (2.7%) underwent CTA imaging. Fifty-three patients (0.4%) were diagnosed with cerebrovascular injuries. The average age of patients was 12.6 years and included 66% males. Nearly half of the population was white (52%). Of those patients who received CTA, 53 (14%) were diagnosed with arterial injury of various grades (I-V). We created models to evaluate factors independently associated with BCVI. The independent predictors associated with BCVI were Injury Severity Score >/= 16 (odds ratio [OR] [2.35]; 95% confidence interval [CI] [1.11-4.99%]), infarct on head imaging (OR [3.85]; 95% CI [1.49-9.93%]), hanging mechanism (OR [8.71]; 95% CI [1.52-49.89%]), cervical spine fracture (OR [3.84]; 95% CI [1.94-7.61%]) and basilar skull fracture (OR [2.21]; 95% CI [1.13-4.36%]). The same independent predictors remained associated with BCVI when excluding hanging mechanism from the multivariate regression analysis. Seatbelt sign of the neck was not associated with BCVI (p=0.68).  

Conclusion: We have found independent predictors of BCVI in pediatric patients. These may help in identifying children that may benefit from screening with CTA of the neck.

  • 2 supplemental files

Factors Affecting Family Presence During Fracture Reduction in the Pediatric Emergency Department

Introduction: Asking family members to leave during invasive procedures has historically been common practice; however, evidence-based recommendations have altered the trend of family presence during pediatric procedures. The aim of this study was to determine factors related to family members’ choice to be present or absent during fracture reductions in a pediatric emergency department (ED), and their satisfaction with that choice.

Methods: We administered role-specific, anonymous surveys to a convenience sample of patients’ family members in the ED of a Level I pediatric trauma center. All family members were given a choice of where to be during the procedure.

Results: Twenty-five family members of 18 patients completed surveys. Seventeen family members chose to stay in the room. Family member satisfaction with their decision to be inside or outside the room during the procedure (median = very satisfied) was almost uniformly high and not associated with any of the following variables: previous presence during a medical procedure; provider-reported procedure difficulty, or anxiety levels. Family member perception of procedure success (median = extremely well) was also high and not associated with other variables. Location during the procedure was associated with a desire to be in the same location in the future (Fisher’s exact test, p=0.001). Common themes found among family members’ reasons for their location decisions and satisfaction levels were a desire to support the patient, high staff competence, and their right as parents to choose their location.

Conclusion: Family members self-select their location during their child’s fracture reduction to high levels of satisfaction, and they considered the ability to choose their location as important.

  • 1 supplemental file

Emergency Medical Services

Tranexamic Acid in Civilian Trauma Care in the California Prehospital Antifibrinolytic Therapy Study

Introduction: Hemorrhage is one of the leading causes of death in trauma victims. Historically, paramedics have not had access to medications that specifically target the reversal of trauma-induced coagulopathies. The California Prehospital Antifibrinolytic Therapy (Cal-PAT) study seeks to evaluate the safety and efficacy of tranexamic acid (TXA) use in the civilian prehospital setting in cases of traumatic hemorrhagic shock. 

Methods: The Cal-PAT study is a multi-centered, prospective, observational cohort study with a retrospective comparison. From March 2015 to July 2017, patients ≥ 18 years-old who sustained blunt or penetrating trauma with signs of hemorrhagic shock identified by first responders in the prehospital setting were considered for TXA treatment. A control group was formed of patients seen in the five years prior to data collection cessation (June 2012 to July 2017) at each receiving center who were not administered TXA. Control group patients were selected through propensity score matching based on gender, age, Injury Severity Scores, and mechanism of injury. The primary outcome assessed was mortality recorded at 24 hours, 48 hours, and 28 days. Additional variables assessed included total blood products transfused, the hospital and intensive care unit length of stay, systolic blood pressure taken prior to TXA administration, Glasgow Coma Score observed prior to TXA administration, and the incidence of known adverse events associated with TXA administration.

Results: We included 724 patients in the final analysis, with 362 patients in the TXA group and 362 in the control group. Reduced mortality was noted at 28 days in the TXA group in comparison to the control group (3.6% vs. 8.3% for TXA and control, respectively, odds ratio [OR]=0.41 with 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.21 to 0.8]). This mortality difference was greatest in severely injured patients with ISS >15 (6% vs 14.5% for TXA and control, respectively, OR=0.37 with 95% CI [0.17 to 0.8]). Furthermore, a significant reduction in total blood product transfused was observed after TXA administration in the total cohort as well as in severely injured patients. No significant increase in known adverse events following TXA administration were observed. 

Conclusion: Findings from the Cal-PAT study suggest that TXA use in the civilian prehospital setting may safely improve survival outcomes in patients who have sustained traumatic injury with signs of hemorrhagic shock.

Burnout and Exposure to Critical Incidents in a Cohort of Emergency Medical Services Workers from Minnesota

Introduction: Very little quantitative data on occupational burnout and exposure to critical incidents are available from contemporary United States emergency medical services (EMS) cohorts. Given that burnout has been associated positively with turnover intentions and absenteeism in EMS workers, studies that uncover correlates of burnout may be integral to combating growing concerns around retention in the profession.

Methods: We administered a 167-item electronic survey that included the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) and a modified version of the Critical Incident History Questionnaire (n=29 incident types) to paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and dispatchers of a single ambulance service. We defined the presence of burnout as a high score on either the emotional exhaustion or depersonalization subscales of the MBI.

Results: Survey respondents who provided regular 911 response at the time of the survey and completed the MBI portion of the survey were included in our analysis (190 paramedics/EMTs, 19 dispatchers; 54% response). The overall prevalence of burnout was 18%, with prevalence reaching 32% among dispatchers. The seven pediatric critical incident types presented in the survey accounted for seven of the top eight rated most difficult to cope with, and severity ratings for pediatric critical incidents did not differ by parental status (all p>0.30). A significant number of respondents reported that they had been threatened with a gun/weapon (43%) or assaulted by a patient (68%) at least once while on duty. Being over the age of 50, a parent, or in a committed relationship was associated with reduced odds of burnout in unadjusted models; however, these associations did not remain statistically significant in multivariate analysis. Increasing tertile of career exposure to critical incidents was not associated with burnout.

Conclusion: Medical dispatchers may be an EMS subgroup particularly susceptible to burnout. These data also demonstrate quantitatively that in this EMS agency, responders find pediatric critical incidents especially distressing and that violence against responders is commonplace. In this study, a simple measure of career exposure to potentially critical incidents was not associated with burnout; however, individual reactions to incidents are heterogeneous, and assessment tools that more accurately enumerate encounters that result in distress are needed.

  • 1 supplemental file

Medical Education

Scholarship in Emergency Medicine: A Primer for Junior Academics Part I: Writing and Publishing

The landscape of scholarly writing, publishing, and university promotion can be complex and challenging. Mentorship may be limited. To be successful it is important to understand the key components of writing and publishing. In this article, we provide expert consensus recommendations on four key challenges faced by junior faculty: writing the paper; selecting contributors and the importance of authorship order; journal selection and indexing; and responding to critiques. After reviewing this paper, the reader should have an enhanced understanding of these challenges and strategies to successfully address them.

  • 1 supplemental file

Scholarship in Emergency Medicine: A Primer for Junior Academics Part III: Understanding Publication Metrics

There are approximately 78 indexed journals in the specialty of emergency medicine (EM), making it challenging to determine which is the best option for junior faculty. This paper is the final component of a three-part series focused on guiding junior faculty to enhance their scholarly productivity. As an EM junior faculty’s research career advances, the bibliometric tools and resources detailed in this paper should be considered when developing a publication submission strategy. The tenure and promotion decision process in many universities relies at least in part on these types of bibliometrics. This paper provides an understanding of new, alternative metrics that can be used to promote scientific progress in a transparent and timely manner.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Learners in Emergency Medicine

Approximately 23% of Americans over age 12 have some level of hearing loss.1 Emergency departments can reduce healthcare barriers for deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHoH) patients through improved patient-physician communication. DHoH students, once they become physicians, may provide one mechanism for reducing existing healthcare disparities and communication barriers for DHoH patients, and may be more adept with patients facing other communication barriers. A renewed interest in disability access and a commitment to social justice has increased efforts toward the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in medical education and training. Despite this increased interest and a growing number of DHoH students entering medical education, DHoH students continue to be dissuaded from specialty careers such as emergency medicine (EM) over concerns regarding effective communication and ability. Given the academic medicine communities’ commitment to diversity, a recounting of the successful inclusion of DHoH students in EM can benefit medical education and practice.

In this account, the authors reflect on the successful experiences of a visiting DHoH medical student in an academic EM rotation at a Level I trauma hospital that serves a diverse population, and they identify the potential challenges for DHoH students in an EM setting, offer solutions including reasonable accommodations, and provide commentary on the legal requirements for providing full and equal access for DHoH students. We secured permission from the student to share the contents of this article prior to publication.



Standardized Patients to Assess Resident Interpersonal Communication Skills and Professional Values Milestones

It has been a challenge to assess communication and professional values Milestones in emergency medicine (EM) residents using standardized methods, as mandated by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). This paper outlines an innovative method of assessing these Milestones using an established instructional method. EM faculty mapped the communication and professional values Milestones to an existing communication and interpersonal skills scale. We identified six communication-focused scenarios: death notification; informed consent; medical non-compliance; medical error; treatment refusal; and advanced directives. In a pilot, 18 EM residents completed these six standardized patient (SP) encounters. Our experience suggests SP encounters can support standardized direct observation of residents’ achievement of ACGME Milestones. Further effort can be made to create a tailored, behaviorally-anchored tool that uses the Milestones as the conceptual framework.

Public Health

Gun Violence: A Biopsychosocial Disease

Gun violence is a complex biopsychosocial disease and as such, requires a multidisciplinary approach to understanding and treatment. Framing gun violence as a disease places it firmly within medical and public health practice. By applying the disease model to gun violence, it is possible to explore the host, agent, and environment in which gun violence occurs, and to identify risk factors to target for prevention. This approach also provides an opportunity to address scientifically inaccurate assumptions about gun violence. In addition, there are many opportunities for medical communities to treat gun violence as a disease by considering and treating the biologic, behavioral, and social aspects of this disease. The medical community must answer recent calls to engage in gun violence prevention, and employing this model of gun violence as a biopsychosocial disease provides a framework for engagement.


Analgesic Administration for Patients with Renal Colic in the Emergency Department Before and After Implementation of an Opioid Reduction Initiative

Introduction: We aimed to evaluate the patterns of analgesic prescribing for emergency department (ED) patients suffering from pain of renal colic before, during, and after implementation of an opioid reduction initiative. We hypothesized that this initiative based on the concept of channels/enzymes/receptors-targeted analgesia would result in overall decrease in opioid utilization in the ED and at discharge.

Methods: We performed a retrospective analysis of ED electronic medical record of patients presenting with renal colic who received analgesics in the ED and at discharge over a five-year period. Patients were divided into three groups based on the following periods: 2012-2014 (pre-implementation phase); 2014-2015 (implementation phase); and 2015-2017 (post-implementation).

Results: A total of 4,490 patients presented to the ED with renal colic over a five-year study period. Analgesics were administered to 3,793 ED patients of whom 1,704 received opioids and 2,675 received non-opioid analgesics. A total of 3,533 ED patients received a prescription for analgesic(s) upon discharge from the ED: 2,692 patients received opioids, and 2,228 received non-opioids. We observed a 12.7% overall decrease from the pre-implementation to post-implementation time period in opioid prescribing in the ED and a 25.5% decrease in opioid prescribing at discharge, which translated into 432 and 768 fewer patients receiving opioids, respectively.

Conclusion: Implementation of an opioid-reduction initiative based on patient-specific, pain syndrome-targeted opioid alternative protocols resulted in a reduction in opioid administration in the ED by 12.7% and at prescriptions at discharge by 25.5%. Adoption of similar ED initiatives nationwide has the potential to foster effective non-opioid analgesic practices for ED patients presenting with renal colic and to reduce physicians’ reliance on administering and prescribing opioids.

  • 2 supplemental files

The Emergency Department as an Opportunity for Naloxone Distribution: A Systematic Review

Introduction: Substance use disorders, including opioid use disorders, are a major public health concern in the United States. Between 2005 and 2014, the rate of opioid-related emergency department (ED) visits nearly doubled, from 89.1 per 100,000 persons in 2005 to 177.7 per 100,000 persons in 2014. Thus, the ED presents a distinctive opportunity for harm-reduction strategies such as distribution of naloxone to patients who are at risk for an opioid overdose. 

Methods: We conducted a systematic review of all existing literature related to naloxone distribution from the ED. We included only those articles published in peer-reviewed journals that described results relating to naloxone distribution from the ED.

Results: Of the 2,286 articles we identified from the search, five met the inclusion criteria and had direct relevance to naloxone distribution from the ED setting. Across the studies, we found variation in the methods of implementation and evaluation of take-home naloxone programs in the ED. In the three studies that attempted patient follow-up, success was low, limiting the evidence for the programs’ effectiveness. Overall, in the included studies there is evidence that distributing take-home naloxone from the ED has the potential for harm reduction; however, the uptake of the practice remained low. Barriers to implementation included time allocated for training hospital staff and the burden on workflow. 

Conclusion: This systematic review of the best evidence available supports the ED as a potential setting for naloxone distribution for overdose reversal in the community. The variability of the implementation methods across the studies highlights the need for future research to determine the most effective practices.

Use of Fine-Scale Geospatial Units and Population Data to Evaluate Access to Emergency Care

Introduction: Time to facility is a crucial element in emergency medicine (EM). Fine-scale geospatial units such as census block groups (CBG) and publicly available population datasets offer a low-cost and accurate approach to modeling geographic access to and utilization of emergency departments (ED). These methods are relevant to the emergency physician in evaluating patient utilization patterns, emergency medical services protocols, and opportunities for improved patient outcomes and cost utilization. We describe the practical application of geographic information system (GIS) and fine-scale analysis for EM using Ohio ED access as a case study.

Methods: Ohio ED locations (n=198), CBGs (n=9,238) and 2015 United States Census five-year American Community Survey (ACS) socioeconomic data were collected July—August 2016. We estimated drive time and distance between population-weighted CBGs and nearest ED using ArcGIS and 2010 CBG shapefiles. We examined drive times vs. ACS characteristics using multinomial regression and mapping.

Results: We categorized CBGs by centroid-ED travel time in minutes: <10 (73.4%; n=6,774), 10-30 (25.1%; n=2,315), and >30 (1.5%; n=141). CBGs with increased median age, Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black population, and college graduation rates had significantly decreased travel time. CBGs with increased low-income populations (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] [1.03], 95% confidence interval [CI] [1.01-1.04]) and vacant housing (AOR [1.06], 95% CI [1.05-1.08]) had increased odds of >30 minute travel time.

Conclusion: Use of fine-scale geographic analysis and population data can be used to evaluate geographic accessibility and utilization of EDs. Methods described offer guidance to approaching questions of geographic accessibility and have numerous ED and pre-hospital applications.


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Bundled HIV and Hepatitis C Testing in the Emergency Department: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Introduction: An estimated 25% of the 1.2 million individuals living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the U.S. are co-infected with hepatitis C (HCV). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends HCV testing for high-risk groups. Our goal was to measure the impact of bundled HIV and HCV testing vs. HIV testing alone on test acceptance and identification of HCV and HIV.

Methods: We conducted a two-armed, randomized controlled trial on a convenience sample of 478 adult patients in the Jacobi Medical Center emergency department from December 2012 to May 2013. Participants were randomized to receive either an offer of bundled HIV/HCV testing or HIV testing alone. We compared the primary outcome, HIV test acceptance, between the two groups. Secondary outcomes included HIV and HCV prevalence, and HCV test acceptance, refusal, risk, and knowledge. 

Results: We found no significant difference in HIV test acceptance between the bundled HCV/HIV (91.8%) and HIV-only (90.6%) groups (p=0.642). There were also no significant differences in test acceptance based on gender, race, or ethnicity. A majority of participants (76.6%) reported at least one HCV risk factor. No participants tested positive for HIV, and one (0.5%) tested positive for HCV. 

Conclusion: Integrating bundled, rapid HCV/HIV testing into an established HIV testing program did not significantly impact HIV test acceptance. Future screening efforts for HCV could be integrated into current HIV testing models to target high-risk cohorts.

Implementation of a Collaborative HIV and Hepatitis C Screening Program in Appalachian Urgent Care Settings

Introduction: With the current hepatitis C (HCV) epidemic in the Appalachian region and the risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) co-infection, there is a need for increased secondary prevention efforts. The purpose of this study was to implement routine HIV and HCV screenings in the urgent care setting through the use of an electronic medical record (EMR) to increase a provider’s likelihood of testing eligible patients. 

Methods: From June 2017 through May 2018, EMR-based HIV and HCV screenings were implemented in three emergency department-affiliated urgent care settings: a local urgent care walk-in clinic; a university-based student health services center; and an urgent care setting located within a multi-specialty clinic. EMR best practice alerts (BPA) were developed based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and populated on registered patients who qualified to receive HIV and/or HCV testing. Patients were excluded from the study if they chose to opt out from testing or the provider deemed it clinically inappropriate. Upon notification of a positive HIV and/or HCV test result through the EMR, patient navigators (PNs) were responsible for linking patients to their first medical appointment. 

Results: From June 2017 through May 2018, 48,531 patients presented to the three urgent care clinics. Out of 27,230 eligible patients, 1,972 patients (7.2%) agreed to be screened for HIV; for HCV, out of 6,509 eligible patients, 1,895 (29.1%)  agreed to be screened. Thirty-one patients (1.6%) screened antibody-positive for HCV, with three being ribonucleic acid confirmed positives. No patients in either setting were confirmed positive for HIV; however, two initially screened HIV-positive. PNs were able to link 17 HCV antibody-positive patients (55%) to their first appointment, with the remainder having a scheduled future appointment. 

Conclusion: Introducing an EMR-based screening program is an effective method to identify and screen eligible patients for HIV and HCV in Appalachian urgent care settings where universal screenings are not routinely implemented.


This Article Corrects: "Coronary Disease in Emergency Department Chest Pain Patients with Recent Negative Stress Testing"

Background: Cardiac stress tests for diagnosis of coronary artery disease (CAD) are incompletely sensitive and specific.

Objective: We examined the frequency of significant CAD in patients presenting to the emergency department (ED) with chest pain who have had a recent negative or inconclusive (<85% of predicted maximum heart rate) cardiac stress test.

Methods: This was a retrospective chart review of patients identified from ED and cardiology registries at the study hospital. We included patients presenting to the ED with a chief complaint of chest pain, with a negative cardiac stress test in the past three years as the last cardiac test, and hospital admission. One-hundred sixty-four patients met the inclusion criteria. Their admission was reviewed for diagnosis of CAD by positive serum troponin, percutaneous coronary intervention, or positive stress test while an inpatient.

Results: Of 164 patients, 122 (74.4%, 95% CI 67.7, 81.1) had a negative stress test prior to the index admission, while 42 (25.6%, 95% CI 18.9, 32.3) had otherwise normal but inconclusive stress tests. Thirty-four (20.7%, 95% CI 14.4,27.0) of the included patients were determined to have CAD. Twenty-five of the 122 patients (20.5%, 95% CI 13.3, 27.7) had negative pre-admission stress tests and nine of 42 patients (21.4%, 95% CI 9.0, 33.8) had inclusive stress tests of CAD. A statistical comparison between these two proportions showed no significant difference (p = .973).

Conclusion: Due to inadequate sensitivity, negative non-invasive cardiac stress tests should not be used to rule out CAD. Patients with negative stress tests are just as likely to have CAD as patients with inconclusive stress tests.