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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 21, Issue 3, 2020

Endemic Infections

The Appropriate Use of Testing for COVID-19

Many public officials are calling for increased testing for the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and some governments have taken extraordinary measures to increase the availability of testing. However, little has been published about the sensitivity and specificity of the reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) nasopharyngeal swabs that are commonly used for testing. This narrative review evaluates the literature regarding the accuracy of these tests, and makes recommendations based on this literature. In brief, a negative RT-PCR nasopharyngeal swab test is insufficient to rule out COVID-19. Thus, over-reliance on the results of the test may be dangerous, and the push for widespread testing may be overstated.

Healthcare Ethics During a Pandemic

As clinicians and support personnel struggle with their responsibilities to treat during the current COVID-19 pandemic, several ethical issues have emerged. Will healthcare workers and support staff fulfill their duty to treat in the face of high risks? Will institutional and government leaders at all levels do the right things to help alleviate healthcare workers risks and fears? Will physicians be willing to make hard, resource-allocation decisions if they cannot first husband or improvise alternatives? With our healthcare facilities and governments unprepared for this inevitable disaster, front-line doctors, advanced providers, nurses, EMS, and support personnel  struggle with acute shortages of equipment—both to treat patients and  protect themselves. With their personal and possibly their family’s lives and health at risk, they must weigh the option of continuing to work or retreat to safety. This decision, made daily, is based on professional and personal values, how they perceive existing risks—including available protective measures, and their perception of the level and transparency of information they receive. Often, while clinicians get this information, support personnel do not, leading to absenteeism and deteriorating healthcare services. Leadership can use good risk communication (complete, widely transmitted, and transparent) to align healthcare workers’ risk perceptions with reality. They also can address the common problems healthcare workers must overcome to continue working (ie, risk mitigation techniques). Physicians, if they cannot sufficiently husband or improvise lifesaving resources, will have to face difficult triage decisions. Ideally, they will use a predetermined plan, probably based on the principles of Utilitarianism (maximizing the greatest good) and derived from professional and community input. Unfortunately, none of these plans is optimal.

Alternative Care Sites: An Option in Disasters

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, the limited surge capacity of the healthcare system is being quickly overwhelmed. Similar scenarios play out when an institution’s systems fail, or when local or regional disasters occur. In these situations, it becomes necessary to use one or more alternative care sites (ACS). Situated in a variety of non-healthcare structures, ACS may be used for ambulatory, acute, subacute, or chronic care. Developing alternative care facilities is the disaster-planning step that moves communities from talking to doing. This commitment pays real dividends if a disaster of any magnitude strikes. This paper discusses the basic criteria for selecting, establishing and ultimately closing an ACS, difficulties of administration, staffing, security, and providing basic supplies and equipment.

Augmenting the Disaster Healthcare Workforce

In disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to use all available resources to bolster our healthcare workforce. Many factors go into this process, including selecting the groups of professionals we will need, streamlining their licensing and credentialing processes, identifying appropriate roles for them, and supporting their health and well-being. The questions we must answer are these: How many staff will we need? How do we provide them with emergency licenses and credentials to practice? What interstate licensing compacts and registration systems exist to facilitate the process? What caveats are there to using retired healthcare professionals and healthcare students? How can we best avoid attrition among and increase the numbers of international medical graduates? Which non-clinical volunteers can we use and in what capacities? The answers to these questions will change as the crisis develops, although the earlier we address them, the smoother will be the process of using augmentees for the healthcare system.

Humanism in the Age of COVID-19: Renewing Focus on Communication and Compassion

The global COVID-19 pandemic has become one of the largest clinical and operational challenges faced by emergency medicine, and our EDs continue to see increased volumes of infected patients, many of whom are not only ill, but acutely aware and fearful of their circumstances and potential mortality. Given this, there may be no more important time to focus on staff-patient communication and expression of compassion.

However, many of the techniques usually employed by emergency clinicians to provide comfort to patients and their families are made more challenging or impossible by the current circumstances. Geriatric ED patients, who are at increased risk of severe disease, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of isolation.

Despite many challenges, emergency clinicians have at their disposal a myriad of tools that can still be used to express compassion and empathy to their patients. Placing emphasis on using these techniques to maximize humanism in the care of COVID-19 patients during this crisis has the potential to bring improvements to ED patient care well after this pandemic has passed.

Preliminary Results of Initial Testing for Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Emergency Department

Introduction: On March 10, 2020, the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic due to widespread infection of the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). We report the preliminary results of a targeted program of COVID-19 infection testing in the ED in the first 10 days of its initiation at our institution.

Methods: We conducted a review of prospectively collected data on all ED patients who had targeted testing for acute COVID-19 infection at two EDs during the initial 10 days of testing (March 10-19, 2020). During this initial period with limited resources, testing was targeted toward high-risk patients per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Data collected from patients who were tested included demographics, clinical characteristics, and test qualifying criteria. We present the data overall and by test results with descriptive statistics.

Results: During the 10-day study period, the combined census of the study EDs was 2157 patient encounters. A total of 283 tests were ordered in the ED. The majority of patients were 18-64 years of age, male, non-Hispanic white, had an Emergency Severity Index score of three, did not have a fever, and were discharged from the ED. A total of 29 (10.2%) tested positive. Symptoms-based criteria most associated with COVID-19 were the most common criteria identified for testing (90.6%). All other criteria were reported in 5.51–43.0% of persons being tested. Having contact with a person under investigation was significantly more common in those who tested positive compared to those who tested negative (63% vs 24.5%, respectively). The majority of patients in both results groups had at least two qualifying criteria for testing (75.2%).

Conclusion: In this review of prospectively collected data on all ED patients who had targeted testing for acute COVID-19 infection at two EDs in the first 10 days of testing, we found that 10.2% of those tested were identified as positive. The continued monitoring of testing and results will help providers understand how COVID-19 is progressing in the community.

Brief Summary of Potential SARS-CoV-2 Prophylactic and Treatment Drugs in the Emergency Department

As of March 30th, 2020 there were 161,807 total cases and 2,953 total deaths of SARS-CoV-2 in the United States, with the number of cases expected to rise. Other than supportive care, there are no SARS-CoV-2 specific treatments available for patients discharged from the emergency department (ED) or those admitted to the hospital. In addition, there are no vaccines available to protect our at-risk healthcare workers. The National Institutes of Health is conducting a Phase 1 clinical trial to evaluate for a potential vaccine and the recipients have started to receive the investigational vaccine.2 We present a brief overview of the potential prophylactic and treatment agents under investigation, some which could be initiated in the ED if proven effective.

15 Smartphone Apps for Older Adults to Use While in Isolation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The maintenance of well-being, healthcare, and social connection is crucial for older adults (OA) and has become a topic of debate as much of the world faces lockdown during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. OAs have been advised to isolate themselves because they are at higher risk for developing serious complications from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Additionally, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities across the country have closed their doors to visitors to protect their residents. Mobile technology (MT) such as applications (apps) could provide a valuable tool to help families stay connected, and to help OAs maintain mobility and link them to resources that encourage physical and mental well-being. Apps could address cognitive, visual, and hearing impairments. Our objective was to narratively summarize 15 apps that address physical and cognitive limitations and have the potential to improve OAs’ quality of life, especially during social distancing or self-quarantine.

Assessment of the Angolan (CHERRT) Mobile Laboratory Curriculum for Disaster and Pandemic Response

Introduction: As of April 5, 2020, the World Health Organization reported over one million confirmed cases and more than 62,000 confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths affecting 204 countries/ regions. The lack of COVID-19 testing capacity threatens the ability of both the United States (US) and low middle income countries (LMIC) to respond to this growing threat, The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness through participant self-assessment of a rapid response team (RRT) mobile laboratory curriculum

Methods: We conducted a pre and post survey for the purpose of a process improvement assessment in Angola, involving 32 individuals. The survey was performed before and after a 14-day training workshop held in Luanda, Angola, in December 2019. A paired t-test was used to identify any significant change on six 7-point Likert scale questions with α< 0.05 (95% confidence interval).

Results: All six of the questions –  1) “I feel confident managing a real laboratory sample test for Ebola or other highly contagious sample;” 2) “I feel safe working in the lab environment during a real scenario;” 3) “I feel as if I can appropriately manage a potentially highly contagious laboratory sample;” 4)“I feel that I can interpret a positive or negative sample during a suspected contagious outbreak;” 5) “I understand basic Biobubble/mobile laboratory concepts and procedures;” and 6) “I understand polymerase chain reaction (PCR) principles” – showed statistical significant change pre and post training. Additionally, the final two questions – “I can more effectively perform my role/position because of the training I received during this course;” and “This training was valuable”  – received high scores on the Likert scale.

Conclusion: This Angolan RRT mobile laboratory training curriculum provides the nation of Angola with the confidence to rapidly respond and test at the national level a highly infectious contagion in the region and perform on-scene diagnostics. This mobile RRT laboratory provides a mobile and rapid diagnostic resource when epidemic/pandemic resource allocation may need to be prioritized based on confirmed disease prevalence.

Critical Care

Descriptive Analysis of Extubations Performed in an Emergency Department-based Intensive Care Unit

Introduction: Extubation of appropriate patients in the emergency department (ED) may be a strategy to avoid preventable or short-stay intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, and could allow for increased ventilator and ICU bed availability when demand outweighs supply. Extubation is infrequently performed in the ED, and a paucity of outcome data exists. Our objective was to descriptively analyze characteristics and outcomes of patients extubated in an ED-ICU setting.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective observational study at an academic medical center in the United States. Adult ED patients extubated in the ED-ICU from 2015-2019 were retrospectively included and analyzed.

Results: We identified 202 patients extubated in the ED-ICU; 42% were female and median age was 60.86 years. Locations of endotracheal intubation included the ED (68.3%), outside hospital ED (23.8%), and emergency medical services/prehospital (7.9%). Intubations were performed for airway protection (30.2%), esophagogastroduodenoscopy (27.7%), intoxication/ingestion (17.3%), respiratory failure (13.9%), seizure (7.4%), and other (3.5%). The median interval from ED arrival to extubation was 9.0 hours (interquartile range 6.2-13.6). One patient (0.5%) required unplanned re-intubation within 24 hours of extubation. The attending emergency physician (EP) at the time of extubation was not critical care fellowship trained in the majority (55.9%) of cases. Sixty patients (29.7%) were extubated compassionately; 80% of these died in the ED-ICU, 18.3% were admitted to medical-surgical units, and 1.7% were admitted to intensive care. Of the remaining patients extubated in the ED-ICU (n = 142, 70.3%), zero died in the ED-ICU, 61.3% were admitted to medical-surgical units, 9.9% were admitted to intensive care, and 28.2% were discharged home from the ED-ICU.

Conclusion: Select ED patients were safely extubated in an ED-ICU by EPs. Only 7.4% required ICU admission, whereas if ED extubation had not been pursued most or all patients would have required ICU admission. Extubation by EPs of appropriately screened patients may help decrease ICU utilization, including when demand for ventilators or ICU beds is greater than supply. Future research is needed to prospectively study patients appropriate for ED extubation.


Males Receive Low-Tidal Volume Component of Lung Protective Ventilation More Frequently than Females in the Emergency Department

Introduction: Mechanical ventilation is a commonly performed procedure in the emergency department (ED). Approximately 240,000 patients per year receive mechanical ventilation in the ED representing 0.23% of ED visits. An ED-based trial published in 2017 showed that a bundle of interventions in mechanically ventilated patients, including low tidal volume ventilation, reduced the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome by nearly 50%. Prior literature has shown that as many as 40% of ED patients do not receive lung protective ventilation. Our goal was to determine whether differences exist between the percent of males vs females who are ventilated at ≥ 8 milliliters per kilogram (mL/kg) of predicted body weight.

Methods: We conducted this study at Temple University Hospital, a tertiary care center located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This was a planned subgroup analysis of study looking at interventions to improve adherence to recommended tidal volume settings. We used a convenience sample of mechanically ventilated patients in our ED between September 1, 2017, and September 30, 2018. All adult patient > 18 years old were eligible for inclusion in the study. Our primary outcome measure was the number of patients who had initial tidal volumes set at > 8 mL/kg of predicted body weight. Our secondary outcome was the number of patients who had tidal volumes set at ≥ 8 mL/kg at 60 minutes after initiation of mechanical ventilation.

Results: A total of 130 patients were included in the final analysis. We found that significantly more females were initially ventilated with tidal volumes ≥ 8 mL/kg compared to men: 56% of females vs 9% of males (p=<0.001). Data was available for 107 patients (82%) who were in the ED at 60 minutes after initiation of mechanical ventilation. Again, a significantly larger percentage of females were ventilated with tidal volumes ≥ 8 mL/kg at 60 minutes: 56% of females vs 10% of males (p<0.001).

Conclusion: The vast majority of tidal volumes ≥ 8 mL/kg during mechanical ventilation occurs in females. We suggest that objective measurements, such as a tape measure and tidal volume card, be used when setting tidal volumes for all patients, especially females.

Efficacy of Laryngeal Tube versus Bag Mask Ventilation by Inexperienced Providers

Introduction: Bag mask ventilation (BMV) and extraglottic devices (EGDs) are two common methods of providing rescue ventilation. BMV can be difficult to perform effectively, especially for inexperienced providers and in patients with difficult airway characteristics. There is some evidence that the laryngeal tube (LT) can be successfully placed by inexperienced providers to provide effective ventilation. However, it is unclear whether ventilation provided by LT is superior to that of BMV, especially in the hands of inexperienced airway providers. Therefore, we aimed to compare ventilation efficacy of inexperienced airway providers with BMV versus LT by primarily measuring tidal volumes and secondarily measuring peak pressures on a simulated model.

Methods: We performed a crossover study first year emergency medicine residents and third and fourth year medical students. After a brief instructional video followed by hands on practice, participants performed both techniques in random order on a simulated model for two minutes each.  Returned tidal volumes and peak pressures were measured.

Results: Twenty participants were enrolled and 1200 breaths were measured, 600 per technique. The median ventilation volumes were 194 milliliters (mL) for BMV, and 387 mL for the laryngeal tube, with a median absolute difference of 170 mL (95% confidence interval [CI] 157-182 mL) (mean difference 148 mL [95% CI, 138-158 mL], p<0.001). The median ventilation peak pressures were 23 centimeters of water (cm H2O) for BMV, and 30 cm H2O for the laryngeal tube, with a median absolute difference of 7 cm H2O (95% CI, 6-8 cm H2O) (mean difference 8 cm H2O [95% CI, 7-9 cm H2O], p<0.001).

Conclusion: Inexperienced airway providers were able to provide higher ventilation volumes and peak pressures with the LT when compared to BMV in a manikin model. Inexperienced providers should consider using an LT when providing rescue ventilations in obtunded or hypoventilating patients without intact airway reflexes. Further study is required to understand whether these findings are generalizable to live patients.

  • 1 supplemental file

Assessment of Vessel Density on Non-Contrast Computed Tomography to Detect Basilar Artery Occlusion

Introduction: Basilar artery occlusion (BAO) may be clinically occult due to variable and non-specific symptomatology. We evaluated the qualitative and quantitative determination of a hyperdense basilar artery (HDBA) on non-contrast computed tomography (NCCT) brain for the diagnosis of BAO.

Methods: We conducted a case control study of patients with confirmed acute BAO vs a control group of suspected acute stroke patients without BAO. Two EM attending physicians, one third-year EM resident, and one medical student performed qualitative and quantitative assessments for the presence of a HDBA on axial NCCT images. Our primary outcome measures were sensitivity and specificity for BAO. Our secondary outcomes were inter-rater and intra-rater reliability of the qualitative and quantitative assessments.

Results: We included 60 BAO and 65 control patients in our analysis. Qualitative assessment of the hyperdense basilar artery sign was poorly sensitive (54%–72%) and specific (55%–89%). Quantitative measurement improved the specificity of hyperdense basilar artery assessment for diagnosing BAO, with a threshold of 61.0–63.8 Hounsfield units demonstrating relatively high specificity of 85%–94%. There was moderate inter-rater agreement for the qualitative assessment of HDBA (Fleiss’ kappa statistic 0.508, 95% confidence interval: 0.435–0.581). Agreement improved for quantitative assessments, but still fell in the moderate range (Shrout-Fleiss intraclass correlation coefficient: 0.635). Intra-rater reliability for the quantitative assessments of the two attending physician reviewers demonstrated substantial consistency.

Conclusion: Our results highlight the importance of carefully examining basilar artery density when interpreting the NCCT of patients with altered consciousness or other signs and symptoms concerning for an acute basilar artery occlusion. If the Hounsfield unit density of the basilar artery exceeds 61 Hounsfield units, BAO should be highly suspected.

Presyncope Is Associated with Intensive Care Unit Admission in Emergency Department Patients with Acute Pulmonary Embolism

Introduction: Syncope is common among emergency department (ED) patients with acute pulmonary embolism (PE) and indicates a higher acuity and worse prognosis than in patients without syncope. Whether presyncope carries the same prognostic implications has not been established. We compared incidence of intensive care unit (ICU) admission in three groups of ED PE patients: those with presyncope; syncope; and neither.

Methods: This retrospective cohort study included all adults with acute, objectively confirmed PE in 21 community EDs from January 2013–April 2015. We combined electronic health record extraction with manual chart abstraction. We used chi-square test for univariate comparisons and performed multivariate analysis to evaluate associations between presyncope or syncope and ICU admission from the ED, reported as adjusted odds ratios (aOR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI).

Results: Among 2996 PE patients, 82 (2.7%) had presyncope and 109 (3.6%) had syncope. ICU admission was similar between groups (presyncope 18.3% vs syncope 25.7%) and different than their non-syncope counterparts (either 22.5% vs neither 4.7%; p<0.0001). On multivariate analysis, both presyncope and syncope were independently associated with ICU admission, controlling for demographics, higher-risk PE Severity Index (PESI) class, ventilatory support, proximal clot location, and submassive and massive PE classification: presyncope, aOR 2.79 (95% CI, 1.40, 5.56); syncope, aOR 4.44 (95% CI 2.52, 7.80). These associations were only minimally affected when excluding massive PE from the model. There was no significant interaction between either syncope or presyncope and PESI, submassive or massive classification in predicting ICU admission.

Conclusion: Presyncope appears to carry similar strength of association with ICU admission as syncope in ED patients with acute PE. If this is confirmed, clinicians evaluating patients with acute PE may benefit from including presyncope in their calculus of risk assessment and site-of-care decision-making.

  • 1 supplemental file

Demographics and Outcomes of Pulmonary Hypertension Patients in United States Emergency Departments

Introduction: Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a common, yet under-diagnosed, contributor to morbidity and mortality. Our objective was to characterize the prevalence of PH among adult patients presenting to United States (US) emergency departments (ED) and to identify demographic patterns and outcomes of PH patients in the ED.

Methods: We analyzed the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS) database, with a focus on ED patients aged 18 years and older, with any International Classification of Diseases, Clinical Modification (ICD)-9-CM or ICD-10-CM diagnosis code for PH from 2011 to 2015. The primary outcome was inpatient, all-cause mortality. The secondary outcomes were hospital admission rates and hospital length of stay (LOS).

Results: From 2011 to 2015, in a sample of 121,503,743 ED visits, representing a weighted estimate of 545,500,486 US ED visits, patients with a diagnosis of PH accounted for 0.78% (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.75- 0.80%) of all US ED visits. Of the PH visits, 86.9% were admitted to the hospital, compared to 16.3% for all other ED visits (P <0.001). Likewise, hospital LOS and hospital-based mortality were higher in the PH group than for other ED patients (e.g., inpatient mortality 4.5% vs 2.6%, P < 0.001) with an adjusted odds ratio (aOR) of 1.34 (95% CI, 1.31–1.37). Age had the strongest association with mortality, with an aOR of 10.6 for PH patients over 80 years (95% CI, 10.06–11.22), compared to a reference of ages 18 to 30 years.

Conclusion: In this nationally representative sample, presentations by patients with PH were relatively common, accounting for nearly 0.8% of US ED visits. Patients with PH were significantly more likely to be admitted to the hospital than all other patients, had longer hospital LOS, and increased risk of inpatient mortality.

  • 1 supplemental file

It’s In The Bag: Tidal Volumes in Adult and Pediatric Bag Valve Masks

Introduction: A bag valve mask (BVM) is a life saving device used by all levels of health care professionals during resuscitative care. We focus most of our time optimizing the patient’s position, firmly securing the mask, and frequency of ventilations. However, despite our best efforts to control these factors, we may still be precipitating harm to the patient. Multiple studies have shown the tidal volumes typically delivered by the adult BVM are often higher than recommended for lung-protective ventilation protocols. In this study we measure and compare the ventilation parameters delivered by the adult and pediatric BVM ventilators.

Methods: A RespiTrainer Advance® adult mannequin was used to simulate a patient. Healthcare providers were directed to manually ventilate an intubated mannequin for two minutes using adult and pediatric sized BVMs. Tidal volume, minute ventilation, peak pressure, and respiration rate was recorded.

Results: The adult BVM provided a mean tidal volume of 807.7mL versus the pediatric BVM providing 630.7mL, both of which exceeded the upper threshold of 560mL of tidal volume necessary for lung protective ventilation of an adult male with an ideal body weight of 70kg. The adult BVM exceeded this threshold by 44.2% versus the pediatric BVM’s 12.6% with 93% of participants exceeding the maximum threshold with the adult BVM and 82.3% exceeding it with the pediatric BVM.

Conclusion: The pediatric BVM in our study provided far more consistent and appropriate ventilation parameters for adult patients compared to an adult BVM, but still exceeded the upper limits of lung protective ventilation parameters. The results of this study highlight the potential dangers in using an adult BVM due to increased risk of pulmonary barotrauma. These higher tidal volumes can contribute to lung injury. This study confirms that smaller BVMs may provide safer ventilatory parameters. Future studies should focus on patient-centered outcomes with BVM.


The Emergency Medicine Group Standardized Letter of Evaluation as a Workplace-Based Assessment: The Validity Is in the Detail

Introduction: Interest is growing in specialty-specific assessments of student candidates based on clinical clerkship performance to assist in the selection process for postgraduate training. The most established and extensively used is the emergency medicine (EM) Standardized Letter of Evaluation (SLOE), serving as a substitute for the letter of recommendation. Typically developed by a program’s leadership, the group SLOE strives to provide a unified institutional perspective on performance.  The group SLOE lacks guidelines to direct its development raising questions regarding the assessments, processes, and standardization programs employ. This study surveys EM programs to gather validity evidence regarding the inputs and processes involved in developing group SLOEs.

Methods: A structured telephone interview was administered to assess the input data and processes employed by United States EM programs when generating group SLOEs.

Results: With 156/178 (87.6%) of Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education-approved programs responding, 146 (93.6%) reported developing group SLOEs. Issues identified in development include the following: (1) 84.9% (124/146) of programs limit the consensus process by not employing rigorous methodology; (2) several stakeholder groups (nurses, patients) do not participate in candidate assessment placing final decisions at risk for construct under-representation; and (3) clinical shift assessments don’t reflect the task-specific expertise of each stakeholder group nor has the validity of each been assessed.

Conclusion: Success of the group SLOE in its role as a summative workplace-based assessment is dependent upon valid input data and appropriate processes. This study of current program practices provides specific recommendations that would strengthen the validity arguments for the group SLOE.

  • 1 supplemental file

Addressing Challenges in Obtaining Emergency Medicine Away Rotations and Standardized Letters of Evaluation Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

The Council of Residency Directors in Emergency Medicine (CORD) Advising Students Committee in Emergency Medicine (ASC-EM) anticipates institutional and regional variability in both the spread and response to COVID-19. Travel restrictions and host institution rotation closures will impact the number of emergency medicine (EM) rotations EM-bound medical students can complete in an unprecedented manner. They may prevent students from completing any away rotations this academic cycle, challenging the students’ ability to obtain EM Standardized Letters of Evaluation (SLOEs). EM’s emphasis on residency group SLOEs over other letter types creates an undue burden on these vulnerable students and makes the application process intrinsically inequitable. This inequity warrants a reevaluation of the current application practice. This article outlines ASC-EM's proposed recommendations for all stakeholders, including EM program leadership, medical schools, and EM-bound medical students, to consider for the upcoming EM application cycle.

Emergency Medical Services

Retrospective Analysis of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Physician Medical Control Calls

Introduction: Although emergency medical services (EMS) standing-order protocols provide more efficient and accurate on-scene management by paramedics, online medical direction (OLMD) has not been eliminated from practice. In this modern era of OLMD, no studies exist to describe the prevalence of reasons for contacting OLMD.

Objectives: The primary goal of this study was to describe the quantity of and reasons for calls for medical direction. We also sought to determine time diverted from emergency physicians due to OLMD. Finally, we hoped to identify any areas for potential improvement or additional training opportunities for EMS providers.

Methods: This was a descriptive study with retrospective data analysis of recorded OLMD calls from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2016. Data were extracted by research personnel listening to audio recordings and were entered into a database for descriptive analysis. We abstracted the date and length of call, patient demographic information (age and gender), category of call (trauma, medical, cardiac, or obstetrics), reason for call, and origin of call (prehospital, interhospital, nursing home, or discharge).

Results: The total number of recordings analyzed was 519. Calls were divided into four categories pertaining to their nature: 353 (68.5%) medical; 70 (13.6%) trauma; 83 (16.1%) cardiac; and 9 (8%) were obstetrics related. Repeat calls regarding the same patient encounter comprised 48 (9.4%) of the calls. Patient refusal of transport was the most common reason for a call medical direction (32.3% of calls). The total time for medical direction calls for the year was 26.6 hours. The maximum number of calls in a single day was seven, with a mean of 2.04 calls per day (standard deviation [SD] ± 1.18). The mean call length was 3.06 minutes (SD ± 2.51).

Conclusion: Our analysis shows that the use of OLMD frequently involves complex decision-making such as determination of the medical decision-making capacity of patients to refuse treatment and transport, and evaluation of the appropriate level of care for interfacility transfers. Further investigation into the effect of EMS physician-driven medical direction on both the quality and time required for OLMD could allow for better identification of areas of potential improvement and training.

Variations in the California Emergency Medical Services Response to Opioid Use Disorder

Introduction: Opioids contributed to over 300,000 deaths in the United States in the past 10 years. Most research on drug use occurs in clinics or hospitals; few studies have evaluated the impact of opioid use on emergency medical services (EMS) or the EMS response to opioid use disorder (OUD). This study describes the perceived burden of disease, data collection, and interventions in California local EMS agencies (LEMSA).

Methods: We surveyed medical directors of all 33 California LEMSAs with 25 multiple-choice and free-answer questions. Results were collected in RedCap and downloaded into Excel (Microsoft Corporation, Redmond WA). This study was exempt from review by the Alameda Health System - Highland Hospital Institutional Review Board.

Results: Of the 33 California LEMSAs, 100% responded, all indicating that OUD significantly affects their patients. Most (91%) had specific protocols directing care of those patients and repeat naloxone dosing. After naloxone administration, none permitted release to law enforcement custody, 6% permitted patient refusal of care, and 45% directed base hospital contact for refusal of care. Few protocols directed screening or treatment of OUD or withdrawal symptoms. Regular data collection occurred in 76% of LEMSAs, with only 48% linking EMS data with hospital or coroner outcomes. In only 30% did the medical director oversee regular quality improvement meetings. Of respondents, 64% were aware of public health agency-based outreach programs and 42% were aware of emergency department BRIDGE programs (Medication Assisted Treatment and immediate referral). Only 9% oversaw naloxone kit distribution (all under the medical director), and 6% had EMS-based outreach programs. In almost all (94%), law enforcement officers carried naloxone and administered it anywhere from a few times a year to greater than 200 in one LEMSA.

Conclusion: This study represents an important description of EMS medical directors’ approaches to the impact of OUD as well as trends in protocols and interventions to treat and prevent overdoses. Through this study, we can better understand the variable response to patients with OUD across California.

  • 1 supplemental file

Retrospective Study of Midazolam Protocol for Prehospital Behavioral Emergencies

Introduction: Agitated patients in the prehospital setting pose challenges for both patient care and emergency medical services (EMS) provider safety. Midazolam is frequently used to control agitation in the emergency department setting; however, limited data exist in the prehospital setting. We describe our experience treating patients with midazolam for behavioral emergencies in a large urban EMS system. We hypothesized that using midazolam for acute agitation leads to improved clinical conditions without causing significant clinical deterioration.

Methods: We performed a retrospective review of EMS patient care reports following implementation of a behavioral emergencies protocol in a large urban EMS system from February 2014–June 2016. For acute agitation, paramedics administered midazolam 1 milligram (mg) intravenous (IV), 5 mg intramuscular (IM), or 5 mg intranasal (IN). Results were analyzed using descriptive statistics, Levene’s test for assessing variance among study groups, and t-test to evaluate effectiveness based on route.

Results: In total, midazolam was administered 294 times to 257 patients. Median age was 30 (interquartile range 24–42) years, and 66.5% were male. Doses administered were 1 mg (7.1%) and 5 mg (92.9%). Routes were IM (52.0%), IN (40.8%), and IV (7.1%). A second dose was administered to 37 patients. In the majority of administrations, midazolam improved the patient’s condition (73.5%) with infrequent adverse events (3.4%). There was no significant difference between the effectiveness of IM and IN midazolam (71.0% vs 75.4%; p = 0.24).

Conclusion: A midazolam protocol for prehospital agitation was associated with reduced agitation and a low rate of adverse events.

Population Health and Social Emergency Medicine

Human Trafficking in the Emergency Department: Improving Our Response to a Vulnerable Population

Human trafficking is a human rights violation affecting millions worldwide. Victims may go unrecognized during their emergency department (ED) visit, and may lose the opportunity to address their complex needs. Using a published toolkit based on existing guidelines and recommendations from experts, and models from other centers, we describe the implementation of an ED response protocol. In following the recommendations of the toolkit, we began with attempts to fully understand the local human trafficking problem and then networked with those working in anti-trafficking efforts. Collaboration with other specialties is highlighted as a key part of this process. Building upon the knowledge gained from these steps, we were able to develop a concise protocol to guide members of our department in more effectively caring for known or suspected victims of human trafficking. The first section of the protocol addresses ways in which providers can identify at-risk patients through both screening questions and general observations. Interviewing techniques are outlined with an emphasis on patient-centered and trauma-informed care. Additionally, the protocol discusses physician responsibility in documenting encounters and legal reporting, which may vary depending on location. We stress the importance of meeting the needs of the patient while prioritizing the safety of all involved. Additionally, the protocol provides a list of resources for the patient beyond medical care such as emergency housing, legal assistance, and food pantries. The overall purpose of this protocol is to provide coordinated response so that all providers may be consistent in caring for this vulnerable population.

Provider Workforce

Wellness: Combating Burnout and Its Consequences in Emergency Medicine

Medicine recognizes burnout as a threat to quality patient care and physician quality of life. This issue exists throughout medicine but is notably prevalent in emergency medicine (EM). Because the concept of “wellness” lacks a clear definition, attempts at ameliorating burnout that focus on achieving wellness make success difficult to achieve and measure. Recent work within the wellness literature suggests that the end goal should be to achieve a culture of wellness by addressing all aspects of the physician’s environment. A review of the available literature on burnout and wellness interventions in all medical specialties reveals that interventions focusing on individual physicians have varying levels of success. Efforts to compare these interventions are hampered by a lack of consistent endpoints. Studies with consistent endpoints do not demonstrate clear benefits of achieving them because improving scores on various scales may not equate to improvement in quality of care or physician quality of life. Successful interventions have uncertain, long-term effects. Outside of EM, the most successful interventions focus on changes to systems rather than to individual physicians. Within EM, the number of well-structured interventions that have been studied is limited. Future work to achieve the desired culture of wellness within EM requires establishment of a consistent endpoint that serves as a surrogate for clinical significance, addressing contributors to burnout at all levels, and integrating successful interventions into the fabric of EM.

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Clinical Practice

Oncologic Emergencies: Immune-Based Cancer Therapies and Complications

Cancer therapies have undergone several recent advancements. Current cancer treatments include immune-based therapies comprised of checkpoint inhibitors, and adoptive immunotherapy; each treatment has the potential for complications that differ from chemotherapy and radiation. This review evaluates immune-based therapies and their complications for emergency clinicians. Therapy complications include immune-related adverse events (irAE), cytokine release syndrome (CRS), autoimmune toxicity, and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell-related encephalopathy syndrome (CRES). Immune-related adverse events are most commonly encountered with checkpoint inhibitors and include dermatologic complications, pneumonitis, colitis/diarrhea, hepatitis, and endocrinopathies. Less common irAEs include nephritis, myocardial injury, neurologic toxicity, ocular diseases, and musculoskeletal complications. CRS and CRES are more commonly associated with CAR T-cell therapy. CRS commonly presents with flu-like illness and symptoms resembling sepsis, but severe myocardial and pulmonary disease may occur. Critically ill patients require resuscitation, broad-spectrum antibiotics, and hematology/oncology consultation.

Disaster Medicine

Impact of Hurricane Harvey on Healthcare Utilization and Emergency Department Operations

Introduction: Hurricanes have increased in severity over the past 35 years, and climate change has led to an increased frequency of catastrophic flooding. The impact of floods on emergency department (ED) operations and patient health has not been well studied. We sought to detail challenges and lessons learned from the severe weather event caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, in August 2017.

Methods: This report combines narrative data from interviews with retrospective data on patient volumes, mode of arrival, and ED lengths of stay (LOS). We compared the five-week peri-storm period for the 2017 hurricane to similar periods in 2015 and 2016.

Results: For five days, flooding limited access to the hospital, with a consequent negative impact on provider staffing availability, disposition and transfer processes, and resource consumption. Interruption of patient transfer capabilities threatened patient safety, but flexibility of operations prevented poor outcomes. The total ED patient census for the study period decreased in 2017 (7062 patients) compared to 2015 (7665 patients) and 2016 (7770) patients). Over the five-week study period, the arrival-by-ambulance rate was 12.45% in 2017 compared to 10.1% in 2016 (p < 0.0001) and 13.7% in 2015 (p < 0.0001). The median ED length of stay (LOS) in minutes for admitted patients was 976 minutes in 2015 (p < 0.0001) compared to 723 minutes in 2016 and 591 in 2017 (p < 0.0001). For discharged patients, median ED LOS was 336 minutes in 2016 compared to 356 in 2015 (p < 0.0001) and 261 in 2017 (p < 0.0001). Median boarding time for admitted ED patients was 284 minutes in 2016 compared to 470 in 2015 (p < 0.0001) and 234.5 in 2017 (p < 0.001). Water damage resulted in a loss of 133 of 179 inpatient beds (74%). Rapid and dynamic ED process changes were made to share ED beds with admitted patients and to maximize transfers post-flooding to decrease ED boarding times.

Conclusion: A number of pre-storm preparations could have allowed for smoother and safer ride-out functioning for both hospital personnel and patients. These measures include surplus provisioning of staff and supplies to account for limited facility access. During a disaster, innovative flexibility of both ED and hospital operations may be critical when disposition and transfer capibilities or bedding capacity are compromised.

Research Publishing

Evaluating the Diversity of Emergency Medicine Foundation (EMF) Grant Recipients in the Last Decade

On behalf of the ACEP Research Committee

Introduction: To study diversity of researchers and barriers to success among Emergency Medicine Foundation (EMF) grant recipients in the last 10 years.

Methods: EMF grant awardees were approached to complete a brief survey, which included demographics, queries related to contributions to the literature, success in obtaining grants, and any perceived barriers they encountered.

Results: Of the 342 researchers contacted by email, a total of 147 completed the survey for a response rate of 43%. The respondents were predominately mid to late career white-male-heterosexual-Christian with an average age of 44 years (range 25-69 years of age). With regards to training and education, the majority of respondents (50%) were either Associate or Professor clinical rank (8% instructor/resident/fellow and 31% Assistant). Sixty-two percent of the respondents reported perceived barriers to career advancement since completion of residency. The largest perceived barrier to success was medical specialty (26%), followed by gender (21%) and age (16%).

Conclusion: Our survey of EMF grant recipients in the last 10 years shows a considerable lack of diversity. The most commonly perceived barriers to career advancement by this cohort were medical specialty, gender, and age. An opportunity exists for further definition of barriers and development of mechanisms to overcome them, with a goal of increased success for those that are underrepresented.



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Behavioral Health

A 2-Question Summative Score Correlates with the Maslach Burnout Inventory

Introduction: There is a high prevalence of burnout among emergency medicine (EM) residents. The Maslach Burnout Inventory - Human Services Survey (MBI-HSS) is a widely used tool to measure burnout. The objective of this study was to compare the MBI-HSS and a two-question tool to determine burnout in the EM resident population.

Methods: Based on data from the 2017 National Emergency Medicine Resident Wellness Survey study, we determined the correlation between two single-item questions with their respective MBI subscales and the full MBI-HSS. We then compared a 2-Question Summative Score to the full MBI-HSS with respect to primary, more restrictive, and more inclusive definitions of burnout previously reported in the literature.

Results: Of 1,522 residents who completed the survey 37.0% reported “I feel burned out from my work,” and 47.1% reported “I have become more callous toward people since I took this job” once a week or more (each item >3 on a scale of 0-6). A 2-Question Summative Score totaling >3 correlated most closely with the primary definition of burnout (Spearman’s rho 0.65 [95% confidence interval 0.62-0.68]). Using the summative score, 77.7% of residents were identified as burned out, compared to 76.1% using the full MBI-HSS, with a sensitivity and specificity of 93.6% and 73.0%, respectively.

Conclusion: An abbreviated 2-Question Summative Score correlates well with the full MBI-HSS tool in assessing EM resident physician burnout and could be considered a rapid screening tool to identify at-risk residents experiencing burnout.

Ridesharing as an Alternative to Ambulance Transport for Voluntary Psychiatric Patients in the Emergency Department

Introduction: Emergency department (ED) crowding is a growing problem. Psychiatric patients have long ED lengths of stay awaiting placement and transportation to a psychiatric facility after disposition.

Methods: Retrospective analysis of length of ED stay after disposition for voluntary psychiatric patients before and after the use of Lyft ridesharing services for inter-facility transport.

Results: Using Lyft transport to an outside crisis center shortens time to discharge both statistically and clinically from 113 minutes to 91 minutes (p = 0.028) for voluntary psychiatric patients. Discharge time also decreased for involuntary patients from 146 minutes to 127 minutes (p = 0.0053).

Conclusion: Ridesharing services may be a useful alternative to medical transportation for voluntary psychiatric patients.

Technology in Emergency Medicine

Ultrasound Identification of Retrobulbar Hematomas by Emergency Physicians in a Cadaveric Model

Introduction: Retrobulbar hemorrhage (RBH) is a rare complication of facial trauma that can lead to dangerous orbital compartment pressures and must be rapidly recognized to prevent permanent vision loss. Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) offers a rapid modality for evaluating a wide variety of ocular pathologies, and prior case reports demonstrate the ability of clinicians to recognize RBH using ultrasound. This study aimed to assess the ability of clinicians at various stages of training to identify a RBH using POCUS in a cadaveric model. Clinicians also were assessed for self-reported comfort using ultrasound for ocular pathology before and after the study.

Methods: Participants included 17 physicians who evaluated 10 eyes (from five cadavers) that were independently randomized to have either a modeled RBH or no hemorrhage. Participants’ final diagnosis of each eye was recorded (RBH present or not), and participants also completed pre- and post-activity surveys.

Results: The overall sensitivity and specificity to correctly diagnose retrobulbar fluid was 87% and 88%, respectively. Sensitivity and specificity were higher after excluding clinicians in their early phase of training. Additionally, self-reported comfort level with ocular ultrasound was significantly improved by this activity.

Conclusion: Emergency physicians at a variety of training levels can correctly identify a cadaveric model of retrobulbar hemorrhage. Use of this cadaveric model can improve exposure of clinicians to the appearance of a rare but vision-threatening ocular pathology such as RBH.

Can Emergency Physicians Perform Carotid Artery Point-of-Care Ultrasound to Detect Stenosis in Patients with TIA and Stroke? A Pilot Study

Introduction: Patients with severe, symptomatic carotid stenosis can have their subsequent stroke risk reduced by surgical intervention if performed soon after a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke. Patients presenting to an emergency department (ED) without computed tomography angiography (CTA) with TIA/stroke, may require transfer to another hospital for imaging to rule out carotid artery stenosis. The objective of this study was to determine the test characteristics of carotid artery point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) in detecting greater than 50% stenosis in patients presenting with TIA/stroke.

Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study on a convenience sample of adult patients presenting to a comprehensive stroke centre with TIA or stroke between June–October 2017. Carotid POCUS was performed. Primary outcome measure, stenosis ≥ 50%, was determined by the final radiology report of CTA. A blinded POCUS expert separately reviewed the archived carotid POCUS scans. We calculated sensitivity and specificity for stenosis ≥ 50%.Results: We conducted POCUS on 75 patients, of which 70 were included in our analyses. Of those 70, 14.3% were diagnosed with greater than 50% stenosis. Carotid POCUS performed as follows: sensitivity 70.0% (95% confidence interval [CI], 34.8%-93.3%); specificity 86.7% (95% CI, 75.4%-94.1%); positive likelihood ratio (LR +) 5.3 (95% CI, 1.2-9.3); negative likelihood ratio (LR -) 0.4 (95% CI, 0.0-0.7). The inter-rater reliability between POCUS performer interpretation and expert interpretation had moderate agreement (k = 0.68). Scans took a mean 6.2 ± 2.2 minutes to complete.

Conclusion: Carotid POCUS has low to moderate association with CTA for detection of carotid artery stenosis ≥ 50%. Further research and investigation is needed prior to widespread use of carotid POCUS in patients with acute cerebral ischemia. Additionally, external validity is likely affected by availability of training, maintenance of competency, and experience in more rural centres.

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Health Outcomes

Appropriateness of Antibiotic Prescriptions for Urinary Tract Infections

Introduction: Urinary tract infections (UTI) are a common indication for antibiotic use in the emergency department (ED). With antibiotic resistance on the rise, it is essential that antibiotics be prescribed appropriately for UTIs. Our objective was to evaluate the appropriateness of antibiotic prescriptions by ED providers for uncomplicated cystitis and pyelonephritis.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective study of females ages 2-50 years seen in an academic ED from January 2017 to April 2018 diagnosed with UTI. We assessed the appropriateness of discharge antibiotic prescriptions, as determined by adherence to clinical practice guidelines, best evidence for the particular indication (cystitis vs pyelonephritis for children and adults), and the local antibiogram.

Results: A total of 421 patients were included in this study. Of these, 60 children and 198 adults were diagnosed with cystitis, and 47 children and 116 adults were diagnosed with pyelonephritis. Treatment in the absence of true infection was common, with culture-confirmed UTI occurring in only 17/50 (34%) of children and 60/129 (47%) of adults diagnosed with cystitis, and 23/40 (58%) of children and 58/87 (67%) of adults diagnosed with pyelonephritis, among patients who had urine cultures. The type of antibiotic prescribed was appropriate in 53/60 (88%) of children and 135/198 (68%) of adults with cystitis, and 38/47 (81%) of children and 53/116 (46%) of adults with pyelonephritis. The most common inappropriate antibiotic types were beta-lactams in adults (n = 92), nitrofurantoin for pyelonephritis (n = 16), and amoxicillin (n = 15). Dosing and duration errors were also common, occurring in 122/279 (44%) of prescriptions of an appropriate antibiotic type. The frequency of errors in the type of antibiotic prescribed was similar among provider types (attending physician, resident physician, and advanced practice clinician; p = 0.926).

Conclusion: This study reveals room for improvement in antibiotic prescription practices across provider cohorts in the ED for the management of uncomplicated cystitis and pyelonephritis in females.

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Adolescents’ Acceptance of Long-Acting Reversible Contraception After an Educational Intervention in the Emergency Department: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Introduction: Adolescents who seek care in the emergency department (ED) are a cohort at increased risk of unintended pregnancy. Although adolescents are interested in learning about pregnancy prevention in the ED, there is a lack of effective educational interventions in this setting. Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) are highly effective and safe in teens, yet are underutilized. This study assessed contraception use among adolescents in the ED and evaluated the impact of an educational video on their interest in and uptake of LARCs.

Methods: We conducted a two-arm randomized controlled trial on a convenience sample of sexually active females 14 to 21 years old in an urban pediatric ED. Participants were randomized to an educational video or standard care. All participants completed a survey and were given an informational card about affiliated teen clinics with the option to schedule an appointment. We assessed pre-post mean differences between control and intervention participants and pre-post differences among intervention participants. Participants were followed three months after their ED visit to examine use of contraception.

Results: A total of 79 females were enrolled (42 control and 37 intervention). The mean age was 17 years, and most were youth of color. The proportion of participants with a prior pregnancy was 18%. Almost all participants reported wanting to avoid pregnancy, yet 18% reported not using contraception at last intercourse. At baseline, 17.7% of participants were somewhat or very interested in the intrauterine device (IUD) or implant. After watching the video, 42.3% were somewhat or very interested in the IUD and 35.7% in the implant. Among those who watched the video, there were significant increases in interest in using an IUD or implant (p<.001). Compared to controls, adolescents who watched the video were also significantly more likely to report wanting an IUD (p<0.001) or implant (p=0.002). A total of 46% were reached for follow-up. Of these, 16% had initiated a LARC method after their ED visit (p=NS).

Conclusion: Most adolescent females in the ED want to avoid pregnancy, but are using ineffective methods of contraception. A brief educational video on LARCs was acceptable to adolescents and feasible to implement in a busy urban ED setting. Adolescents who watched the video had significantly greater interest in using LARCs, but no demonstrated change in actual adoption of contraception.

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Emergency Department Operations

Boarding is Associated with Reduced Emergency Department Efficiency that is not Mitigated by a Provider in Triage

Introduction: Boarding of patients in the emergency department (ED) is associated with decreased ED efficiency. The provider-in-triage (PIT) model has been shown to improve ED throughput, but it is unclear how these improvements are affected by boarding. We sought to assess the effects of boarding on ED throughput and whether implementation of a PIT model mitigated those effects.

Methods: We performed a multi-site retrospective review of 955 days of ED operations data at a tertiary care academic ED (AED) and a high-volume community ED (CED) before and after implementation of PIT. Key outcome variables were door to provider time (D2P), total length of stay of discharged patients (LOSD), and boarding time (admit request to ED departure [A2D]).

Results: Implementation of PIT was associated with a decrease in median D2P by 22 minutes or 43% at the AED (p < 0.01), and 18 minutes (31%) at the CED (p < 0.01). LOSD also decreased by 19 minutes (5.9%) at the AED and 8 minutes (3.3%) at the CED (p<0.01). After adjusting for variations in daily census, the effect of boarding (A2D) on D2P and LOSD was unchanged, despite the implementation of PIT. At the AED, 7.7 minutes of boarding increased median D2P by one additional minute (p < 0.01), and every four minutes of boarding increased median LOSD by one minute (p < 0.01). At the CED, 7.1 minutes of boarding added one additional minute to D2P (p < 0.01), and 4.8 minutes of boarding added one minute to median LOSD (p < 0.01).

Conclusion: In this retrospective, observational multicenter study, ED operational efficiency was improved with the implementation of a PIT model but worsened with boarding. The PIT model was unable to mitigate any of the effects of boarding. This suggests that PIT is associated with increased efficiency of ED intake and throughput, but boarding continues to have the same effect on ED efficiency regardless of upstream efficiency measures that may be designed to minimize its impact.

Impact of Scribes with Flow Coordination Duties on Throughput in an Academic Emergency Department

Introduction: With the increasing influence of electronic health records in emergency medicine came concerns of decreasing operational efficiencies. Particularly worrisome was increasing patient length of stay (LOS). Medical scribes were identified to be in a good position to quickly address barriers to treatment delivery and patient flow. The objective of this study was to investigate patient LOS in the mid- and low-acuity zones of an academic emergency department (ED) with and without medical scribes.

Methods: A retrospective cohort study compared patient volume and average LOS between a cohort without scribes and a cohort after the implementation of a scribe-flow coordinator program. Patients were triaged to the mid-acuity Vertical Zone (primarily Emergency Severity Index [ESI] 3) or low-acuity Fast Track (primarily ESI 4 and 5) at a tertiary academic ED. Patients were stratified by treatment zone, acuity level, and disposition.

Results: The pre-intervention and post-intervention periods included 8900 patients and 9935 patients, respectively. LOS for patients discharged from the Vertical Zone decreased by 12 minutes from 235 to 223 minutes (p<0.0001, 95% confidence interval [CI], -17,-7) despite a 10% increase in patient volume. For patients admitted from the Vertical Zone, volume increased 13% and LOS remained almost the same, increasing from 225 to 228 minutes (p=0.532, 95% CI, -6,12). For patients discharged from the Fast Track, volume increased 14% and LOS increased six minutes, from 89 to 95 minutes (p<0.0001, 95% CI, 4,9). Predictably, only 1% of Fast Track patients were admitted.

Conclusion: Despite substantially increased volume, the use of scribes as patient flow facilitators in the mid-acuity zone was associated with decreased LOS. In the low-acuity zone, scribes were not shown to be as effective, perhaps because rapid patient turnover required them to focus on documentation.

What is a Freestanding Emergency Department? Definitions Differ Across Major United States Data Sources

Introduction: Despite the growing number of freestanding emergency departments (FSED) in the United States (US), FSED definitions differ across major US data sources of healthcare facilities and use. We compare these sources and propose a universal definition of FSED (and its two major types) to improve communications regarding these facilities and their patients.

Methods: We collected definitions of FSEDs from 11 national data sources using their websites, email, and telephone communications. For each source, we asked how they define FSEDs, whether being open 24/7 is a requirement to be called an ED, and whether they maintain a dataset of FSEDs.

Results: Definitions varied across the data sources. All sources recognize FSEDs in their definitions, regardless of type; only one (the National Health Intervew Survey) does not differentiate them from other EDs. Five of the 11 sources (45%) omit autonomous FSEDs from their definitions and do not separately identify satellite FSEDs from their affiliated hospitals. One source does separately identify satellite FSEDs from their affiliated hospitals, but also omits autonomous FSEDs. Furthermore, three of the 11 sources (27%) do not require being open 24/7, while all others (73%) employ this criterion. Six of the 11 (55%) maintain datasets of FSEDs using their definition.

Conclusion: As FSEDs continue to change the landscape of emergency care, it is important that they also be represented in national ED data sources. The current differences in the definition of an FSED make it difficult to provide accurate and longitudinal analysis for these facilities and patients who receive services at these facilities. We propose a universal definition of FSEDs as described by both the American College of Emergency Physicians and the National Emergency Department Inventory. Implementing a standard definition would facilitate a more accurate representation of FSEDs in national data sources and enhance ongoing efforts to improve the quality of emergency care delivered in FSEDs.

Erratum (Staff Only)

This Article Corrects: “Assessment of Physician Well-being, Part Two: Beyond Burnout”

Part One of this two-article series reviews assessment tools to measure burnout and other negative states. Physician well-being goes beyond merely the absence of burnout. Transient episodes of burnout are to be expected. Measuring burnout alone is shortsighted. Well-being includes being challenged, thriving, and achieving success in various aspects of personal and professional life. In this second part of the series, we identify and describe assessment tools related to wellness, quality of life, resilience, coping skills, and other positive states.