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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 21, Issue 5, 2020

Injury Prevention and Population Health

Counseling on Access to Lethal Means-Emergency Department (CALM-ED): A Quality Improvement Program for Firearm Injury Prevention

Introduction: Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with firearms reported as the cause of death in up to 50% of these cases. Our goal was to evaluate the feasibility of the Counseling on Access to Lethal Means intervention in the Emergency Department (CALM-ED) by non-physician personnel.

Methods: We conducted this single-center, prospective, quality improvement study (QI) in an urban, academic ED with over 90,000 annual patient visits. The study looked at adult patients who were discharged after presenting to the ED with suicidal crisis. Assessment of access to lethal means was conducted at the bedside, followed by a counseling session regarding safe storage of lethal means and follow-up via telephone call 48-72 hours after ED discharge. We collected data on patient’s sociodemographics, psychiatric history, access to lethal means, lethal means storage methods, the patient’s specific plans for lethal means storage after discharge, and post-discharge follow-up care.

Results: Of 215 eligible patients, 166 voluntarily agreed to participate in CALM-ED, of whom 84 (51%) reported access to lethal means. Following the intervention, 75% of patients described a specific storage plan for their lethal means. Patients with and without access to firearms were equally likely to participate in the follow-up telephone call.

Conclusion: An ED-based CALM QI intervention is feasible for implementation by non-physician personnel and is well received by patients and families. This intervention has the potential to help saves lives at times of suicide crisis.

  • 2 supplemental PDFs

Technology in Emergency Care

Point-of-Care Ultrasound for Intubation Confirmation of COVID-19 Patients

The novel coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) is associated with significant morbidity and mortality, as well as large numbers of patients requiring endotracheal intubation. While much of the literature has focused on the intubation technique, there is scant discussion of intubation confirmation. Herein, we discuss the limitations of traditional confirmatory approaches, summarize the literature supporting a role for point-of-care ultrasound in this application, and propose an algorithm for intubation confirmation among COVID-19 patients.

Endemic Infections

Homeless Shelter Characteristics and Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2

Introduction: The unfolding COVID-19 pandemic has predictably followed the familiar contours of well established socioeconomic health inequities, exposing and often amplifying preexisting disparities. People living in homeless shelters are at higher risk of infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) compared to the general population. The purpose of this study was to identify shelter characteristics that may be associated with higher transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional assessment of five congregate shelters in Rhode Island. Shelter residents 18 years old and older were tested for SARS-CoV-2 from April 19–April 24, 2020. At time of testing, we collected participant characteristics, symptomatology, and vital signs. Shelter characteristics and infection control strategies were collected through a structured phone questionnaire with shelter administrators.

Results: A total of 299 shelter residents (99%, 299/302) participated. Thirty-five (11.7%) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Shelter-level prevalence ranged from zero to 35%. Symptom prevalence did not vary by test result. Shelters with positive cases of SARS-CoV-2 were in more densely populated areas, had more transient resident populations, and instituted fewer physical distancing practices compared to shelters with no cases.

Conclusion: SARS-CoV-2 prevalence varies with shelter characteristics but not individual symptoms. Policies that promote resident stability and physical distancing may help reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Symptom screening alone is insufficient to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Frequent universal testing and congregate housing alternatives that promote stability may help reduce spread of infection.

Development and Usability Testing of a Web-based COVID-19 Self-triage Platform

Introduction: The development and deployment of a web-based, self-triage tool for severe respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (COVID-19 disease) aimed at preventing surges in healthcare utilization could provide easily understandable health guidance with the goal of mitigating unnecessary emergency department (ED) and healthcare visits. We describe the iterative development and usability testing of such a tool. We hypothesized that adult users could understand and recall the recommendations provided by a COVID-19 web-based, self-triage tool.

Methods: We convened a multidisciplinary panel of medical experts at two academic medical schools in an iterative redesign process of a previously validated web-based, epidemic screening tool for the current COVID-19 pandemic. We then conducted a cross-sectional usability study over a 24-hour period among faculty, staff, and students at the two participating universities. Participants were randomly assigned a pre-written health script to enter into the self-triage website for testing. The primary outcome was immediate recall of website recommendations. Secondary outcomes included usability measures. We stratified outcomes by demographic characteristics.

Results: A final sample of 877 participants (mean age, 32 years [range, 19-84 years]; 65.3% female) was used in the analysis. We found that 79.4% of the participants accurately recalled the recommendations provided by the website. Almost all participants (96.9%) found the website easy to use and navigate.

Conclusion: Adult users of a COVID-19 self-triage website, recruited from an academic setting, were able to successfully recall self-care instructions from the website and found it user-friendly. This website appears to be a feasible way to provide evidence-based health guidance to adult patients during a pandemic. Website guidance could be used to reduce unnecessary ED and healthcare visits.

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The Impact of COVID-19 on Healthcare Worker Wellness: A Scoping Review

At the heart of the unparalleled crisis of COVID-19, healthcare workers (HCWs) face several challenges treating patients with COVID-19: reducing the spread of infection; developing suitable short-term strategies; and formulating long-term plans. The psychological burden and overall wellness of HCWs has received heightened awareness in news and research publications. The purpose of this study was to provide a review on current publications measuring the effects of COVID-19 on wellness of healthcare providers to inform interventional strategies. Between April 6–May 17, 2020, we conducted systematic searches using combinations of these keywords and synonyms in conjunction with the controlled vocabulary of the database: “physician,” “wellness, “wellbeing,” “stress,” “burnout,” “COVID-19,” and “SARS-CoV-2.” We excluded articles without original data, research studies regarding the wellness of non-healthcare occupations or the general public exclusively, other outbreaks, or wellness as an epidemic. A total of 37 studies were included in this review. The review of literature revealed consistent reports of stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms in HCWs as a result of COVID-19. We describe published data on HCW distress and burnout but urge future research on strategies to enhance HCW well-being.

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Diagnostic and Prognostic Value of Chest Radiographs for COVID-19 at Presentation

Introduction: Pulmonary opacities in COVID-19 increase throughout the illness and peak after ten days. The radiological literature mainly focuses on CT findings. The purpose of this study was to assess the diagnostic and prognostic value of chest radiographs (CXR) for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) at presentation.

Methods: We retrospectively identified consecutive reverse transcription polymerase reaction-confirmed COVID-19 patients (n = 104, 75% men) and patients (n = 75, 51% men) with repeated negative severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) tests. Two radiologists blindly and independently reviewed the CXRs, documented findings, assigned radiographic assessment of lung edema (RALE) scores, and predicted the patients’ COVID-19 status. We calculated interobserver reliability. The score use for diagnosis and prognosis of COVID-19 was evaluated with the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve.

Results: The overall RALE score failed to identify COVID-19 patients at presentation. However, the score was inversely correlated with a COVID-19 diagnosis within ≤2 days, and a positive correlation was found six days after symptom onset.Interobserver agreement with regard to separating normal from abnormal CXRs was moderate (k = 0.408) with low specificity (25% and 27%). Definite pleural effusion had almost perfect agreement (k = 0.833) and substantially reduced the odds of a COVID-19 diagnosis. Disease distribution and experts’ opinion on COVID-19 status had only fair interobserver agreement. The RALE score interobserver reliability was moderate to good (intraclass correlation coefficient = 0.745). A high RALE score predicted a poor outcome (intensive care unit hospitalization, intubation, or death) in COVID-19 patients; a score of ≥5 substantially increased the odds of having a poor outcome.

Conclusion: Chest radiography was found not to be a valid diagnostic tool for COVID-19, as normal or near-normal CXRs are more likely early in the disease course. Pleural effusions at presentation suggest a diagnosis other than COVID-19. More extensive lung opacities at presentation are associated with poor outcome in COVID-19 patients. Thus, patients with more than minimal opacities should be monitored closely for clinical deterioration. This clinical application of CXR is its greatest strength in COVID-19 as it impacts patient care.

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MIST (Modified Intubating Sequence for Transmissibility) Bundle for Infectious Diseases with Aerosol Hazard

The current global severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has magnified the risk to healthcare providers when inititiating airway management, and safe tracheal intubation has become of paramount importance. Mitigation of risk to frontline providers requires airway management to be an orchestrated exercise based on training and purposeful simulation. Role allocation and closed-loop communication form the foundation of this exercise. We describe a methodical, 10-step approach from decision-making and meticulous drug and equipment choices to donning of personal protective equipment, and procedural concerns. This bundled approach will help reduce unplanned actions, which in turn may reduce the risk of aerosol transmission during airway management in resource-limited settings.

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Barrier Enclosure for Endotracheal Intubation in a Simulated COVID-19 Scenario: A Crossover Study

Introduction: Barrier enclosures have been developed to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission to healthcare providers during intubation, but little is known about their impact on procedure performance. We sought to determine whether a barrier enclosure delays time to successful intubation by experienced airway operators.

Methods: We conducted a crossover simulation study at a tertiary academic hospital. Participants watched a four-minute video, practiced one simulated intubation with a barrier enclosure, and then completed one intubation with and one without the barrier enclosure (randomized to determine order). The primary outcome measure was time from placement of the video laryngoscope at the lips to first delivered ventilation. Secondary outcomes were periprocedural complications and participant responses to a post-study survey.

Results: Proceduralists (n = 50) from emergency medicine and anesthesiology had median intubation times of 23.6 seconds with practice barrier enclosure, 20.5 seconds with barrier enclosure, and 16.7 seconds with no barrier. Intubation with barrier enclosure averaged 4.5 seconds longer (95% confidence interval, 2.7-6.4, p < .001) than without, but was less than the predetermined clinical significance threshold of 10 seconds. Three complications occurred, all during the practice intubation. Barrier enclosure made intubation more challenging according to 48%, but 90% indicated they would consider using it in clinical practice.

Conclusion: Experienced airway operators performed intubation using a barrier enclosure with minimal increased time to procedure completion in this uncomplicated airway model. Given potential to reduce droplet spread, use of a barrier enclosure may be an acceptable adjunct to endotracheal intubation for those familiar with its use.

Mastery Learning Ensures Correct Personal Protective Equipment Use in Simulated Clinical Encounters of COVID-19

Introduction: The correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE) limits transmission of serious communicable diseases to healthcare workers, which is critically important in the era of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). However, prior studies illustrated that healthcare workers frequently err during application and removal of PPE. The goal of this study was to determine whether a simulation-based, mastery learning intervention with deliberate practice improves correct use of PPE by physicians during a simulated clinical encounter with a COVID-19 patient.

Methods: This was a pretest-posttest study performed in the emergency department at a large, academic tertiary care hospital between March 31–April 8, 2020. A total of 117 subjects participated, including 56 faculty members and 61 resident physicians. Prior to the intervention, all participants received institution-mandated education on PPE use via an online video and supplemental materials. Participants completed a pretest skills assessment using a 21-item checklist of steps to correctly don and doff PPE. Participants were expected to meet a minimum passing score (MPS) of 100%, determined by an expert panel using the Mastery Angoff and Patient Safety standard-setting techniques. Participants that met the MPS on pretest were exempt from the educational intervention. Testing occurred before and after an in-person demonstration of proper donning and doffing techniques and 20 minutes of deliberate practice. The primary outcome was a change in assessment scores of correct PPE use following our educational intervention. Secondary outcomes included differences in performance scores between faculty members and resident physicians, and differences in performance during donning vs doffing sequences.

Results: All participants had a mean pretest score of 73.1% (95% confidence interval [CI], 70.9-75.3%). Faculty member and resident pretest scores were similar (75.1% vs 71.3%, p = 0.082). Mean pretest doffing scores were lower than donning scores across all participants (65.8% vs 82.8%, p<0.001). Participant scores increased 26.9% (95% CI of the difference 24.7-29.1%, p<0.001) following our educational intervention resulting in all participants meeting the MPS of 100%.

Conclusion: A mastery learning intervention with deliberate practice ensured the correct use of PPE by physician subjects in a simulated clinical encounter of a COVID-19 patient. Further study of translational outcomes is needed.

  • 2 supplemental files

Streamlining Care in Crisis: Rapid Creation and Implementation of a Digital Support Tool for COVID-19

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in rapidly evolving best practices for transmission reduction, diagnosis, and treatment. A regular influx of new information has upended traditionally static hospital protocols, adding additional stress and potential for error to an already overextended system. To help equip frontline emergency clinicians with up-to-date protocols throughout the evolving COVID-19 crisis, our team set out to create a dynamic digital tool that centralized and standardized resources from a broad range of platforms across our hospital. Using a design thinking approach, we rapidly built, tested, and deployed a solution using simple, out-of-the-box web technology that enables clinicians to access the specific information they seek within moments. This platform has been rapidly adopted throughout the emergency department, with up to 70% of clinicians using the digital tool on any given shift and 78.6% of users reporting that they “agree” or “strongly agree” that the platform has affected their management of COVID-19 patients. The tool has also proven easily adaptable, with multiple protocols being updated nearly 20 times over two months without issue. This paper describes our development process, challenges, and results to enable other institutions to replicate this process to ensure consistent, high-quality care for patients as the COVID-19 pandemic continues its unpredictable course.

Triage in The Time of Diphtheria

Introduction: A diphtheria outbreak occurred in 2017 in Jakarta, Indonesia, during which our hospital was appointed as a referral hospital where patients with upper respiratory tract symptoms were sent for confirmation of the diagnosis and medical intervention. In this study we review the implementation of the emergency department (ED) triage process and patient flow management during the diphtheria outbreak. No previous study in Indonesia has provided a detailed report on the triage process during infectious disease outbreaks.

Method: We modified our pre-existing hospital triage method according to the “identify, isolate, and inform” principle. We developed novel criteria for triage to identify triage-suspected cases and also a diphtheria package to simplify the diagnostic process. Four separate rooms were modified to isolation spaces to enable medical staff to observe these patients. We obtained data from the ED outbreak registry and electronic health records.

Results: Of 60 cases of triage-suspected diphtheria, six were classified as suspected diphtheria. The mean time from “identify” to “isolate” was 3.5 minutes, and from “isolate” to “inform” was 10 minutes. Mean ED length of stay for probable diphtheria was 24.46 hours. No medical personnel in the ED showed any signs of diphtheria 30 days after the outbreak had abated.

Conclusion: The modified criteria can help triage officers detect suspected diphtheria cases and measure the triage response time. Use of the diphtheria package and four separate rooms in the ED could act as an infection control procedure and facilitate the improvement of the diagnostic process.

COVID-19: An Emerging Threat to Antibiotic Stewardship in the Emergency Department

While current research efforts focus primarily on identifying patient level interventions that mitigate the direct impact of COVID-19, it is important to consider the collateral effects of COVID-19 on antimicrobial resistance. Early reports suggest high rates of antibiotic utilization in COVID-19 patients despite their lack of direct activity against viral pathogens. The ongoing pandemic is exacerbating known barriers to optimal antibiotic stewardship in the ED, representing an additional direct threat to patient safety and public health. There is an urgent need for research analyzing overall and COVID-19 specific antibiotic prescribing trends in the ED. Optimizing ED stewardship during COVID-19 will likely require a combination of traditional stewardship approaches (e.g. academic detailing, provider education, care pathways) and effective implementation of host response biomarkers and rapid COVID-19 diagnostics. Antibiotic stewardship interventions with demonstrated efficacy in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on ED prescribing should be widely disseminated and inform the ongoing pandemic response.

Behavioral Health

Impact of Social Distancing on Individuals Who Use Drugs: Considerations for Emergency Department Providers

The isolation that comes from social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic can be particularly detrimental to the United States’ population of people who use drugs. People with substance use disorders may be at risk for return to use, exacerbation of existing mental health disorders, and risky drug practices. In this commentary, we review the risk to people who use drugs and how emergency department providers can best support these individuals during the unprecedented time of social distancing.

Buprenorphine for Opioid Use Disorder in the Emergency Department: A Retrospective Chart Review

Introduction: Emergency care providers routinely treat patients with acute presentations and sequelae of opioid use disorder. An emergency physician and pharmacist implemented a protocol using buprenorphine for the treatment of patients with opioid withdrawal at an academic, Level I trauma center. We describe our experience regarding buprenorphine implementation in the emergency department (ED), characteristics of patients who received buprenorphine, and rates of outpatient follow-up.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of all patients in the ED for whom buprenorphine was administered to treat opioid withdrawal during an 18-month period from January 30, 2017–July 31, 2018. Data extraction of a priori-defined variables was recorded. We used descriptive statistics to characterize the cohort of patients.

Results: A total of 77 patients were included for analysis. Thirty-three patients (43%) who received buprenorphine did not present with the chief complaint of opioid withdrawal. Most patients (74%) who received buprenorphine last used heroin, and presented in moderate opioid withdrawal. One case of precipitated withdrawal occurred after buprenorphine administration. Twenty-three (30%) patients received outpatient follow-up.

Conclusions: This study underscores the safety of ED-initiated buprenorphine and that buprenorphine administration in the ED is feasible and effective.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Family-witnessed Resuscitation of Emergency Department Patients

Introduction: Family presence during emergency resuscitations is increasingly common, but the question remains whether the practice results in psychological harm to the witness. We examine whether family members who witness resuscitations have increased post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms at one month following the event.

Methods: We identified family members of critically ill patients via our emergency department (ED) electronic health record. Patients were selected based on their geographic triage to an ED critical care room. Family members were called a median of one month post-event and administered the Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R), a 22-item validated scale that measures post-traumatic distress symptoms and correlates closely with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Family members were placed into two groups based on whether they stated they had witnessed the resuscitation (FWR group) or not witnessed the resuscitation (FNWR group). Data analyses included chi-square test, independent sample t-test, and linear regression controlling for gender and age.

Results: A convenience sample of 423 family members responded to the phone interview: 250 FWR and 173 FNWR. The FWR group had significantly higher mean total IES-R scores: 30.4 vs 25.6 (95% confidence interval [CI], -8.73 to -0.75; P<.05). Additionally, the FWR group had significantly higher mean score for the subscales of avoidance (10.6 vs 8.1; 95% CI, -4.25 to -0.94; P<.005) and a trend toward higher score for the subscale of intrusion (13.0 vs 11.4; 95% CI, -3.38 to .028; P = .054). No statistical significant difference was noted between the groups in the subscale of hyperarousal (6.95 vs 6.02; 95% CI, -2.08 to 0.22; P=.121). All findings were consistent after controlling for age, gender, and immediate family member (spouse, parent, children, and grandchildren).

Conclusion: Our results suggest that family members who witness ED resuscitations may be at increased risk of PTSD symptoms at one month. This is the first study that examines the effects of family visitation for an unsorted population of very sick patients who would typically be seen in the critical care section of a busy ED.


  • 1 supplemental PDF
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Point-of-sale Naloxone: Novel Community-based Research to Identify Naloxone Availability

Introduction: Expanding naloxone availability is important to reduce opioid-related deaths. Recent data suggest low, variable urban naloxone availability. No reports describe naloxone availability at the point of sale (POSN). We characterize POSN without prescription across a Midwestern metropolitan area, via a unique poison center-based study.

Methods: Pharmacies were randomly sampled within a seven-county metropolitan area, geospatially mapped, and distributed among seven investigators, who visited pharmacies and asked, “May I purchase naloxone here without a prescription from my doctor?” Following “No,” investigators asked, “Are you aware of the state statute that allows you to dispense naloxone to the public under a standing order?” Materials describing statutory support for POSN were provided. Responses were uploaded to REDCap in real time. We excluded specialty (veterinary, mail order, or infusion) pharmacies a priori. POSN availability is presented as descriptive statistics; characteristics of individual sites associated with POSN availability are reported.

Results: In total, 150 pharmacies were prospectively randomized, with 52 subsequently excluded or unavailable for survey. Thus, 98 were included in the final analysis. POSN was available at 71 (72.5%) of 98 pharmacies. POSN availability was more likely at chain than independent pharmacies (84.7% vs 38.5%, p<0.001); rural areas were more commonly served by independent than chain pharmacies (47.4% vs 21.5%, p = 0.022). Five chain and five independent pharmacies (18.5% each) were unaware of state statutory support for collaborative POSN agreements. Statutory awareness was similar between independent and chain pharmacies (68.8% vs 54.6%, p = 0.453). Rationale for no POSN varied.

Conclusion: POSN is widely available in this metropolitan area. Variability exists between chain and independent pharmacies, and among pharmacies of the same chain; awareness of statutory guidance does not. Poison centers can act to define local POSN availability via direct inquiry in their communities.

The Utility of Serum Creatinine Kinase in Emergency Department Patients with Possible Substance-use Related Conditions

Introduction: Our goal was to assess the diagnostic utility and temporal kinetics of serum creatine kinase (CK) measurement as a predictor of acute kidney injury (AKI) in emergency department (ED) patients who present with possible substance-use related conditions.

Methods: This was a retrospective chart review of ED patients with a urine drug screen (UDS) ordered and resulted between 2009–2013. Data was extracted electronically from EPIC Systems electronic health records, populated into a Microsoft Excel file, and includes demographics, chief complaint, vital signs, neuro-psychiatric physical examination findings, laboratory findings, psychiatric consult order time, ED medications given, orders, disposition and its time, and diagnosis.

Results: Of 74,970 patients with an ED UDS, 22,101 (29%) had at least one CK measured. After inclusion and exclusion criteria, 2858 (13%) remained. Mean (standard deviation [SD]) age was 43.3 (12.5) years, 73% were male, 61% Black, 22% White, and 17% Hispanic. Mean (SD) ED length of stay was 10.4 (5.8) hours, and 56.7% were hospitalized. On average, CK was higher at 6-12 hours (p<0.001) and 12-18 hours (p=0.016) compared to 6 hours. CK was lower at 42-56 hours (p = 0.011), 72 hours (p<0.001), and over 72 hours (p<0.001), compared to 6 hours. Maximum CK was determined in those with >2 CK measures. We defined AKI risk as a creatinine of >1.4 milligrams per deciliter based on RIFLE criteria. AKI risk was calculated among those with at least two creatinine values in 522 patients. We identified five (1%) patients as having AKI risk. The odds of AKI risk were not associated with increase in CK over time.

Conclusion: In 74,970 ED patients undergoing UDS testing for potential substance abuse, there was no identifiable CK level associated with AKI risk. In patients with possible substance-use conditions, CK continued to trend up even after six hours from door time and began to decrease after 42 hours. We found no value in repeated ED CK measures. Disposition should not be based solely on CK levels.

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COVID-19: A Driver for Disruptive Innovation of the Emergency Medicine Residency Application Process

Recommendations from the Council of Residency Directors Application Process Improvement Committee (CORD-APIC)

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has had a significant impact on undergraduate medical education with limitation of patient care activities and disruption to medical licensing examinations. In an effort to promote both safety and equity, the emergency medicine (EM) community has recommended no away rotations for EM applicants and entirely virtual interviews during this year’s residency application cycle. These changes affect the components of the EM residency application most highly regarded by program directors – Standardized Letters of Evaluation from EM rotations, board scores, and interactions during the interview. The Council of Residency Directors in Emergency Medicine Application Process Improvement Committee suggests solutions not only for the upcoming year but also to address longstanding difficulties within the process, encouraging residency programs to leverage these challenges as an opportunity for disruptive innovation.

Effect of Resident Physicians in a Supervisory Role on Efficiency in the Emergency Department

Introduction: While patient throughput and emergency department (ED) length of stay (LOS) are recognized as important metrics in the delivery of efficient care, they must be balanced with the educational mission of academic centers. Prior studies examining the impact of learners on throughput and LOS when staffing directly with attending physicians have yielded mixed results. Herein we sought to examine the impact of a staffing model involving a supervisory resident “pre-attending” (PAT) on ED throughput and LOS, as this model offers a valuable educational experience for residents, but may do so at the expense of operational efficiency.

Methods: We retrospectively analyzed 26,702 unique patient encounters at a university-affiliated community ED between July 1, 2017–January 1,2019. The experimental group was comprised of patients seen primarily by midlevel providers, who staffed with a PAT, who subsequently staffed with an attending physician. The control group was comprised of patients seen by midlevel providers and staffed directly with attendings without a PAT. We used a parametric hazard model to analyze the effect of the presence of a PAT on service time, controlling for potential confounders including timing of presentation and patient demographics.

Results: The presence of a PAT is associated with a statistically significant increase in service time of five minutes (p = 0.006). Holding other variables equal, predicted service time in the experimental group was 173 minutes (95% confidence interval (CI), 171-176), while that for controls was 168 minutes (95% CI, 165-171).

Conclusion: The presence of a PAT is associated with a statistically significant increase in service time, but the magnitude (five minutes) is likely operationally insignificant. The negligible increase in service time is offset by the benefit to residents’ training. The results of this study may be helpful for residency programs considering the addition of a PAT shift structure.

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Creation and Implementation of a Mastery Learning Curriculum for Emergency Department Thoracotomy

Introduction: Emergency department thoracotomy (EDT) is a lifesaving procedure within the scope of practice of emergency physicians. Because EDT is infrequently performed, emergency medicine (EM) residents lack opportunities to develop procedural competency.  There is no current mastery learning curriculum for residents to learn EDT. The purpose of this study was to develop and implement a simulation-based mastery learning curriculum to teach and assess EM residents’ performance of the EDT. 

Methods: We developed an EDT curriculum using a mastery learning framework. The minimum passing standard (MPS) for a previously developed 22-item checklist was determined using the Mastery Angoff approach. EM residents at a four-year academic EM residency program underwent baseline testing in performing an EDT on a simulation trainer. Performance was scored by two raters using the checklist. Learners then participated in a novel mastery learning EDT curriculum that included an educational video, hands-on instruction, and deliberate practice. After a three-month period, residents then completed initial post testing. Residents who did not meet the minimum passing standard after post testing participated in additional deliberate practice until mastery was obtained. Baseline and post-test scores, and time to completion of the procedure were compared with paired t-tests.

Results: Of 56 eligible EM residents, 54 completed baseline testing. Fifty-two residents completed post-testing until mastery was reached. The minimum passing standard was 91.1%, (21/22 items correct on the checklist). No participants met the MPS at the baseline assessment. After completion of the curriculum, all residents subsequently reached the MPS, with deliberate practice sessions not exceeding 40 minutes. Scores from baseline testing to post-testing significantly improved across all postgraduate years from a mean score of 10.2/22 to 21.4/22 (p <0.001). Mean time to complete the procedure improved from baseline testing (6 minutes [min] and 21 seconds [sec], interquartile range [IQR] = 4 min 54 sec - 7 min 51 sec) to post-testing (5 min 19 seconds, interquartile range 4 min 17sec - 6 min 15 sec; p = 0.001).

Conclusion: This simulation-based mastery learning curriculum resulted in all residents performing an EDT at a level that met or exceeded the MPS with an overall decrease in time needed to perform the procedure.

  • 1 supplemental PDF
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Research Methods

Leveraging Remote Research Associates During a Pandemic

Introduction: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has seriously impacted clinical research operations in academic medical centers due to social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders. The purpose of this paper is to describe the implementation of a program to continue clinical research based out of an emergency department (ED) using remote research associates (RA).

Methods: Remote RAs were trained and granted remote access to the electronic health record (EHR) by the health system’s core information technology team. Upon gaining access, remote RAs used a dual-authentication process to gain access to a host-based, firewall-protected virtual network where the EHR could be accessed to continue screening and enrollment for ongoing studies. Study training for screening and enrollment was also provided to ensure study continuity.

Results: With constant support and guidance available to establish this EHR access pathway, the remote RAs were able to gain access relatively independently and without major technical troubleshooting. Each remote RA was granted access and trained on studies within one week and self-reported a high degree of program satisfaction, EHR access ease, and study protocol comfort through informal evaluation surveys.

Conclusions: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we virtualized a clinical research program to continue important ED-based studies.

  • 9 supplemental ZIPs

Resident Research in Emergency Medicine: An Introduction and Primer

Training in research methodology represents an important aspect of emergency medicine (EM) resident education, but best methods for design, implementation, and dissemination of resident research remain elusive. Here we describe recommendations and best practices from the existing literature on EM resident research, including helpful tips on how to best implement a resident research program.

Provider Workforce

Intention to Leave Emergency Medicine: Mid-career Women Are at Increased Risk

Introduction: Burnout is prevalent among emergency physicians and may cause physicians to consider leaving the practice of emergency medicine (EM). This study sought to determine whether there is a gender difference in reporting burnout and seriously considering leaving the specialty of EM, and secondarily to explore the factors reported as contributing to burnout.

Methods: This was a secondary analysis of the 2014 American Board of Emergency Medicine Longitudinal Survey of Emergency Physicians. We used multiple logistic regression to determine which factors were associated with reporting serious consideration of leaving EM, when stratified by years in practice and adjusting for individual, departmental, and institutional factors.

Results: The response rate was 82%, (n = 868); 22.6% (194) were female and 77.4% (664) were males; and 83.9% (733) White. The mean age of men responding was significantly higher than women (52.7±11.9 vs. 44.9±10.4, p<0.001). Overall, there were no significant gender differences in reporting having had serious thoughts of leaving EM in either unmatched or age-matched analyses. More women reported that burnout was a significant problem, while men more often were equivocal as to whether it was a problem. When stratified by years in practice, mid-career women had a seven-fold increase in the odds ratio (OR) of seriously considered leaving EM, compared to men of similar years in practice (OR 7.07, 95% confidence interval, 2.45-20.39).  Autonomy at work, control over working conditions, fair compensation, personal reward, and a sense of ownership were factors associated with a lower rate of reporting considering leaving EM.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that the intention to leave EM is not more prevalent in women.  However, mid-career women more often reported seriously considering leaving the specialty than mid-career men.  Further research on the factors behind this finding in mid-career women in EM is needed.


Using an Online Vaccination Registry to Confirm Tetanus Status in Children with Tetanus-prone Wounds

Introduction: Tetanus vaccination status is an important consideration for emergency physicians managing patients with tetanus-prone wounds. Physicians must identify at-risk patients, but vaccination histories are often unknown and commonly lack documentation. The study objective was to determine the potential impact of an online immunization registry (Florida SHOTS – State Health Online Tracking System) on the appropriate administration of tetanus prophylaxis for pediatric patients managed in the emergency department (ED).

Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of all patients less than 18 years old who received ED tetanus prophylaxis at two separate sites between January 2011–May 2015. The Florida SHOTS database was accessed to determine vaccination status for each patient in the study group at the time of the encounter. We compared vaccination status for each patient, as documented in the electronic health record (EHR), with Florida SHOTS data to determine whether tetanus prophylaxis was indicated. The proportion of patients receiving tetanus prophylaxis in the ED, who were subsequently identified as up to date with tetanus vaccination per Florida SHOTS, was determined.

Results: We identified 743 patients who received ED tetanus prophylaxis. Forty-three (6%) were listed as “up to date” on the EHR and 656 (93%) were listed as “not up to date.” In comparison, 209 (30%) of the study group were identified as “up to date” via Florida SHOTS, and 477 (70%) were not. We accessed the Florida SHOTS record retrospectively to determine whether the vaccine was required. It was determined that 174 (25%) of the patients received tetanus prophylaxis unnecessarily as they were already up to date per Florida SHOTS documentation.

Conclusions: Twenty-five percent of patients vaccinated for tetanus in the ED could have been spared if Florida SHOTS data had been used by providers at the time of the encounter. Access to Florida SHOTS provides valuable information regarding vaccination status that impacts patient care and resource utilization in the ED.

Healthcare Utilization

A Method for Grouping Emergency Department Visits by Severity and Complexity

Introduction: Triage functions to quickly prioritize care and sort patients by anticipated resource needs. Despite widespread use of the Emergency Severity Index (ESI), there is still no universal standard for emergency department (ED) triage. Thus, it can be difficult to objectively assess national trends in ED acuity and resource requirements. We sought to derive an ESI from National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) survey items (NHAMCS-ESI) and to assess the performance of this index with respect to stratifying outcomes, including hospital admission, waiting times, and ED length of stay (LOS).

Methods: We used data from the 2010-2015 NHAMCS, to create a measure of ED visit complexity based on variables within NHAMCS. We used NHAMCS data on chief complaint, vitals, resources used, interventions, and pain level to group ED visits into five levels of acuity using a stepwise algorithm that mirrored ESI. In addition, we examined associations of NHAMCS-ESI with typical indicators of acuity such as waiting time, LOS, and disposition. The NHAMCS-ESI categorization was also compared against the “immediacy” variable across all of these outcomes. Visit counts used weighted scores to estimate national levels of ED visits.

Results: The NHAMCS ED visits represent an estimated 805,726,000 ED visits over this time period. NHAMCS-ESI categorized visits somewhat evenly, with most visits (42.5%) categorized as a level 3. The categorization pattern is distinct from that of the “immediacy” variable within NHAMCS. Of admitted patients, 89% were categorized as NHAMCS-ESI level 2-3. Median ED waiting times increased as NHAMCS-ESI levels decreased in acuity (from approximately 14 minutes to 25 minutes). Median LOS decreased as NHAMCS-ESI decreased from almost 200 minutes for level 1 patients to nearly 80 minutes for level 5 patients.

Conclusion: We derived an objective tool to measure an ED visit’s complexity and resource use. This tool can be validated and used to compare complexity of ED visits across hospitals and regions, and over time.

Emergency Department Operations

Sepsis Alerts in Emergency Departments: A Systematic Review of Accuracy and Quality Measure Impact

Introduction: For early detection of sepsis, automated systems within the electronic health record have evolved to alert emergency department (ED) personnel to the possibility of sepsis, and in some cases link them to suggested care pathways. We conducted a systematic review of automated sepsis-alert detection systems in the ED.

Methods: We searched multiple health literature databases from the earliest available dates to August 2018. Articles were screened based on abstract, again via manuscript, and further narrowed with set inclusion criteria: 1) adult patients in the ED diagnosed with sepsis, severe sepsis, or septic shock; 2) an electronic system that alerts a healthcare provider of sepsis in real or near-real time; and 3) measures of diagnostic accuracy or quality of sepsis alerts. The final, detailed review was guided by QUADAS-2 and GRADE criteria. We tracked all articles using an online tool (Covidence), and the review was registered with PROSPERO registry of reviews. A two-author consensus was reached at the article choice stage and final review stage. Due to the variation in alert criteria and methods of sepsis diagnosis confirmation, the data were not combined for meta-analysis.

Results: We screened 693 articles by title and abstract and 20 by full text; we then selected 10 for the study. The articles were published between 2009–2018. Two studies had algorithm-based alert systems, while eight had rule-based alert systems. All systems used different criteria based on systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) to define sepsis. Sensitivities ranged from 10-100%, specificities from 78-99%, and positive predictive value from 5.8-54%. Negative predictive value was consistently high at 99-100%. Studies showed some evidence for improved process-of-care markers, including improved time to antibiotics. Length of stay improved in two studies. One low quality study showed improved mortality.

Conclusion: The limited evidence available suggests that sepsis alerts in the ED setting can be set to high sensitivity. No high-quality studies showed a difference in mortality, but evidence exists for improvements in process of care. Significant further work is needed to understand the consequences of alert fatigue and sensitivity set points.

  • 2 supplemental files

Dumpster Diving in the Emergency Department: Quantity and Characteristics of Waste at a Level I Trauma Center

Introduction: Healthcare contributes 10% of greenhouse gases in the United States and generates two milion tons of waste each year. Reducing healthcare waste can reduce the environmental impact of healthcare and lower hospitals’ waste disposal costs. However, no literature to date has examined US emergency department (ED) waste management. The purpose of this study was to quantify and describe the amount of waste generated by an ED, identify deviations from waste policy, and explore areas for waste reduction.

Methods: We conducted a 24-hour (weekday) ED waste audit in an urban, tertiary-care academic medical center. All waste generated in the ED during the study period was collected, manually sorted into separate categories based on its predominant material, and weighed. We tracked deviations from hospital waste policy using the hospital’s Infection Control Manual, state regulations, and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act standards. Lastly, we calculated direct pollutant emissions from ED waste disposal activities using the M+WasteCare Calculator.

Results: The ED generated 671.8 kilograms (kg) total waste during a 24-hour collection period. On a per-patient basis, the ED generated 1.99 kg of total waste per encounter. The majority was plastic (64.6%), with paper-derived products (18.4%) the next largest category. Only 14.9% of waste disposed of in red bags met the criteria for regulated medical waste. We identified several deviations from waste policy, including loose sharps not placed in sharps containers, as well as re-processable items and protected health information thrown in medical and solid waste. We also identified over 200 unused items. Pollutant emissions resulting per day from ED waste disposal include 3110 kg carbon dioxide equivalent and 576 grams of other criteria pollutants, heavy metals, and toxins.

Conclusion: The ED generates significant amounts of waste. Current ED waste disposal practices reveal several opportunities to reduce total waste generated, increase adherence to waste policy, and reduce environmental impact. While our results will likely be similar to other urban tertiary EDs that serve as Level I trauma centers, future studies are needed to compare results across EDs with different patient volumes or waste generation rates.

Patient Characteristics and Clinical Process Predictors of Patients Leaving Without Being Seen from the Emergency Department

Introduction: Delays in patient flow in the emergency department (ED) result in patients leaving  without being seen (LWBS). This compromises patient experience and quality of care. Our primary goal was to develop a predictive model by evaluating associations between patients LWBS and ED process measures and patient characteristics.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study in a 95,000 annual visit adult ED comparing patients LWBS, with controls. Data were drawn from four seasonally adjusted four-week periods (30,679 total visits). Process measures included 1) arrivals per hour; 2) “door-to-provider” time; and the numbers of 3) patients in the waiting room; 4) boarding ED patients waiting for an inpatient bed; 5) providers and nurses (RN); and 6) patients per RN. Patient characteristics collected included 1) age; 2) gender; 3) race/ethnicity; 4) arrival mode (walk-in or via emergency medical services [EMS]); and 5) acuity based on Emergency Severity Index (ESI). Univariable analyses included t-tests and Pearson’s chi-square tests. We split the data randomly into derivation and validation cohorts. We used backward selection to develop the final derivation model, and factors with a p-value ≤ 0.05 were retained. Estimates were applied to the validation cohort and measures of discrimination (receiver operating characteristic) and model fit were assessed.

Results: In the final model, the odds of LWBS increased with the number of patients in the waiting room (odds ratio [OR] 1.05; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.03 to 1.06); number of boarding patients (OR 1.02; 95% CI, 1.01 to 1.03); arrival rate (OR 1.04; 95% CI, 1.02 to 1.05) and longer “door-to-provider” times (test of linear trend in the adjusted OR was p = 0.002). Patient characteristics associated with LWBS included younger age (OR 0.98; 95% CI, 0.98 to 0.99), and lower acuity (higher ESI category) (OR 2.01; 95% CI, 1.84 to 2.20). Arrival by EMS was inversely associated with LWBS (OR 0.29; 0.23 to 0.36). The area under the curve for the final model in the validation cohort was 0.85 (95% CI, 0.84 to 0.86). There was good agreement between the observed and predicted risk.

Conclusion: Arrival rate, “door-to-provider time,” and the numbers of patients in the waiting room and ED boarders are all associated with patients LWBS.

Emergency Medical Services

Development and Implementation of a Community Paramedicine Program in Rural United States

Introduction: Community paramedicine (CP) is an innovative care model focused on medical management for patients suffering from chronic diseases or other conditions that result in over-utilization of healthcare services. Despite their value, CP care models are not widely used in United States healthcare settings. More research is needed to understand the feasibility and effectiveness of implementing CP programs. Our objective was to develop a CP program to better meet the needs of complex, high-utilizer patients in a rural setting.

Methods: We conducted an observational descriptive case series in a community, 25-bed, critical access hospital and primary care clinic in a rural Wisconsin county. Multiple stakeholders from the local health system and associated ambulance service were active participants in program development and implementation. Eligible patients receiving the intervention were identified as complex or high need by a referring physician. Primary outcomes included measures of emergency department, hospital, and clinic utilization. Secondary measures included provider and patient satisfaction.

Results: We characterized 32 unique patients as high utilizers requiring assistance in medical management. These patients were enrolled into the program and categorized as high utilizers requiring assistance in medical management. The median age was 76 years, and 68.8% were female. After six months, we found a statistically significant decline in patient utilization for primary care (53.3%, p = .006) and ED visits (59.3%, p = .007), but not for hospitalizations (60%, p = .13, non-significant (NS), compared to the six months preceding enrollment. Overall, the total number of healthcare contacts was increased after implementation (623 before vs 790 after, + 167, +26.8%). Implementation of the CP program resulted in increased overall use of local healthcare resources in patients referred by physicians as high utilizers.

Conclusion: The implementation of an in-home CP program targeting high users of healthcare resources resulted in a decrease in utilization in the hospital, ED, and primary care settings; however, it was balanced and exceeded by the number of CP visits. CP programs align well with population health strategies and could be better leveraged to fill gaps in care and promote appropriate access to healthcare services. Further study is required to determine whether the shift in type of healthcare access reduces or increases cost.

Paramedic Pain Management Practice with Introduction of a Non-opiate Treatment Protocol

Introduction: There is concern about the initiation of opiates in healthcare settings due to the risk of future misuse. Although opiate medications have historically been at the core of prehospital pain management, several states are introducing non-opiate alternatives to prehospital care. Prior studies suggest that non-opiate analgesics are non-inferior to opiates for many acute complaints, yet there is little literature describing practice patterns of pain management in prehospital care. Our goal was to describe the practice patterns and attitudes of paramedics toward pain management after the introduction of non-opiates to a statewide protocol.

Methods: This study was two-armed. The first arm employed a pre/post retrospective chart review model examining medication administrations reported to the Massachusetts Ambulance Trip Information System between January 1, 2017–December 31, 2018. We abstracted instances of opiate and non-opiate utilizations along with patients’ clinical course. The second arm consisted of a survey administered to paramedics one year after implementation of non-opiates in the state protocol, which used binary questions and Likert scales to describe beliefs pertaining to prehospital analgesia.

Results: Pain medications were administered in 1.6% of emergency medical services incidents in 2017 and 1.7% of incidents in 2018. The rate of opiate analgesic use was reduced by 9.4% in 2018 compared to 2017 (90.6% vs 100.0%). The absolute reduction in opiate use in 2018 was 3.6%. Women were less likely (odds ratio [OR] = 0.78, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.69-0.89) and trauma patients were more likely to receive opiates (OR = 2.36, CI, 1.96-2.84). Mean transport times were longer in opiate administration incidents (36.97 vs 29.35 minutes, t = 17.34, p<0.0001). We surveyed 100 paramedics (mean age 41.98, 84% male). Compositely, 85% of paramedics planned to use non-opiates and 35% reported having done so. Participants planning to use non-opiates were younger and less experienced. Participants indicated that concern about adverse effects, efficacy, and time to effect impacted their practice patterns.

Conclusion: The introduction of non-opiate pain medication to state protocols led to reduced opiate administration. Men and trauma patients were more likely to receive opiates. Paramedics reported enthusiasm for non-opiate medications. Beliefs about non-opioid analgesics pertaining to adverse effects, onset time, and efficacy may influence their utilization.

  • 1 supplemental file

Health Outcomes

Insurance Does Not Affect Adverse Events While Awaiting Surgery for Ankle Trauma in One System

Introduction: Ankle injuries that are not properly cared for can have devastating effects on a patient’s health and ability to maintain an active lifestyle. Recommended outpatient surgery may be difficult to obtain for many groups of patients, including those without insurance or minority races. Patients who are of low socioeconomic status also have worse outcomes following trauma. The purpose of this study was to examine whether insurance status impacts the number of adverse events that patients face prior to receiving surgical treatment following an emergency department (ED) visit for an acute ankle injury.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review at two medical centers within the same healthcare system. The sample included 192 patients presenting to the ED with an unstable ankle injury between October 1, 2015– May 1, 2018. We used chi-square and t-test analysis to determine differences in rates of adverse events occurring while awaiting surgery.

Results: Few (4%) patients presented as being self-pay. Neither Medicare (χ2 (1) (N = 192) = 2.389, p = .122), Medicaid (χ2 (1), (N = 192) = .084, p = .772), other insurances (χ2 (1) (N = 192) = .567, p = .452), or private insurance (χ2 (1) (N=192) = .000, p = .982) was associated with a difference in rates of adverse events. Likewise, gender (χ2 (1) (N = 192) = .402, p = .526), race (χ2 (3) (N = 192) = 2.504, p = .475), and all other demographic variables failed to show a difference in occurrence of adverse events. Those admitted to the hospital did show a lower rate of adverse events compared to those sent home from the ED (χ2 (1) (N = 192) = 5.452, p = .020). Sampled patients were admitted to the hospital at a high rate (49%).

Conclusion: The sampled facilities did not have adverse event rates that differed based on insurance status or demographic features. These facilities, with hospital-based subsidy programs and higher than expected admission rates, may manage their vulnerable populations well and may indicate their efforts to eliminate health disparity are effective.

Age-adjusted and Expanded Lactate Thresholds as Predictors of All-Cause Mortality in the Emergency Department

Introduction: While numerous studies have found emergency department (ED) lactate levels to be associated with increased in-hospital mortality, little information is available on the role age plays in this association. This study investigates whether age is a necessary variable to consider when using lactate levels as a marker of prognosis and a guide for management decisions in the ED.

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study in an urban, tertiary-care teaching hospital. A total of 13,506 lactate levels were obtained over a 4.5-year period. All adult patients who had a lactate level obtained by the treating provider in the ED were screened for inclusion. The main outcome measure was in-hospital mortality using age-adjusted cohorts and expanded lactate thresholds with secondary outcomes comparing mortality based on the primary clinical impression.

Results: Of the 8796 patients in this analysis, there were 474 (5.4%) deaths. Mortality rates increased with both increasing lactate levels and increasing age. For all ages, mortality rates increased from 2.8% in the less than 2.0 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) lactate level, to 5.6% in the 2.0-2.9 mmol/L lactate level, to 8.0% in the 3.0-3.9 mmol/L lactate level, to 13.9% in the 4.0-4.9 mmol/L lactate level, to 13.7% in the 5.0-5.9 mmol/L lactate level, and to 39.1% in the 6.0 mmol/L or greater lactate level (p <0.0001). Survivors, regardless of age, had a mean lactate level <2.0 whereas non-survivors had mean lactate levels of 6.5, 4.5, and 3.7 mmol/L for age cohorts 18-39, 40-64, and ≥ 65 years, respectively.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that although lactate levels can be used as a prognostic tool to risk stratify ED patients, the traditional lactate level thresholds may need to be adjusted to account for varying risk based on age and clinical impressions.

  • 1 supplemental file


Feasibility of Health Literacy Tools for Older Patients in the Emergency Department

Introduction: This study evaluates the feasibility of using a volunteer research associate (RA) to administer two separate health literacy assessment tools in the emergency department (ED), specifically in an older population of patients. The outcomes measured were administration time and interruptions.

Methods: Using a prospective, cross-sectional study with a convenience sample, adult patients over the age of 55 presenting between June–August 2018 to one urban, academic ED were evaluated by a volunteer RA using either the Newest Vital Sign (NVS) or the Short Assessment of Health Literacy (SAHL). All patients 55 years of age or older who consented to participate were included. We excluded from this study the following: patients with dementia or other disability involving reading, speech, or cognitive function, as noted in their medical record or by their attending physician; prisoners; and those subjectively deemed in extremis or too ill to participate by their attending physician.

Results: Health literacy was assessed in 202 patients using either the NVS or SAHL. Mean time of administration was 214.0 seconds for the NVS, and 206.8 for the SAHL. The maximum time of administration for the NVS was 563 seconds, compared to 607 seconds for the SAHL. We found that 95.2% of NVS and 93.9% of SAHL tests incurred no interruptions during administration.

Conclusion: No significant difference was found between the length of time needed to administer the NVS or SAHL to older patients in the ED. Both tools averaged an administration time of around three to four minutes, and neither incurred regular interruptions to its administration by a volunteer RA. Further study is needed to assess validity of these tools in an ED setting.

Two-Item Fall Screening Tool Identifies Older Adults at Increased Risk of Falling after Emergency Department Visit

Introduction: Few emergency department (ED)-specific fall-risk screening tools exist. The goals of this study were to externally validate Tiedemann et al’s two-item, ED-specific fall screening tool and test handgrip strength to determine their ability to predict future falls. We hypothesized that both the two-item fall screening and handgrip strength would identify older adults at increased risk of falling.

Methods: A convenience sample of patients ages 65 and older presenting to a single-center academic ED were enrolled. Patients were asked screening questions and had their handgrip strength measured during their ED visit. Patients were given one point if they answered “yes” to “Are you taking six or more medications?” and two points for answering “yes” to “Have you had two or more falls in the past year?” to give a cumulative score from 0 to 3. Participants had monthly follow- ups, via postcard questionnaires, for six months after their ED visit. We performed sensitivity and specificity analyses, and used likelihood ratios and frequencies to assess the relationship between risk factors and falls, fall-related injury, and death.

Results: In this study, 247 participants were enrolled with 143 participants completing follow-up (58%). During the six-month follow-up period, 34% of participants had at least one fall and 30 patients died (12.1%). Fall rates for individual Tiedemann scores were 14.3%, 33.3%, 60.0% and 72.2% for scores of 0,1, 2 and 3, respectively. Low handgrip strength was associated with a higher proportion of falls (46.3%), but had poor sensitivity (52.1%).

Conclusion: Handgrip strength was not sensitive in screening older adults for future falls. The Tiedemann rule differentiated older adults who were at high risk for future falls from low risk individuals, and can be considered by EDs wanting to screen older adults for future fall risk.

  • 1 supplemental file

Health Equity

Academic Emergency Medicine Faculty Experiences with Racial and Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Introduction: Despite the increasing diversity of individuals entering medicine, physicians from racial and sexual minority groups continue to experience bias and discrimination in the workplace. The objective of this study was to determine the current experiences and perceptions of discrimination on the basis of race and sexual orientation among academic emergency medicine (EM) faculty.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of a convenience sample of EM faculty across six programs. Survey items included the Overt Gender Discrimination at Work (OGDW) Scale adapted for race and sexual orientation, and the frequency and source of experienced and observed discrimination. Group comparisons were made using t-tests or chi-square analyses, and relationships between race or sexual orientation, and we evaluated physicians’ experiences using correlation analyses.

Results: A total of 141 out of 352 (40.1%) subjects completed at least a portion of the survey. Non-White physicians reported higher mean racial OGDW scores than their White counterparts (13.4 vs 8.6; 95% confidence interval (CI) for difference, -7.7 – -2.9). Non-White EM faculty were also more likely to report having experienced discriminatory treatment based on race than were White EM faculty (48.0% vs 12.6%; CI for difference, 16.6% – 54.2%), although both groups were equally likely to report having observed race-based discrimination of another physician. EM faculty who identified as sexual minorities reported higher mean sexual minority OGDW scores than their heterosexual counterparts (11.1 vs 7.1; 95% CI for difference, -7.3 – -0.6). There were no significant differences between sexual minority and heterosexual faculty in their reports of experiencing or observing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Conclusion: EM faculty from racial and sexual minority groups perceived more discrimination based on race or sexual orientation in their workplace than their majority counterparts. EM faculty regardless of race or sexual orientation were similar in their observations of discriminatory treatment of another physician based on race or sexual orientation.


  • 1 supplemental file

Improving Understanding of Screening Questions for Social Risk and Social Need Among Emergency Department Patients

Introduction: With recent healthcare policy changes, including the creation of accountable care organizations, screening for social risks such as food and housing insecurity has become increasingly common in the healthcare system. However, the wide variety of different tools used for screening makes it challenging to compare across systems. In addition, the majority of tools used to measure social risks have only been tested in primary care settings and may not be optimal for emergency department (ED) use. Therefore, the goal of this study was to create a brief social screening tool for use in EDs.

Methods: We developed an initial tool using publicly available questions corresponding to the five core categories of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Accountable Health Communities Screening Tool. Iterative cycles of cognitive interviews with purposively sampled participants were performed using a hybrid model of think-aloud and verbal probing to understand/experience answering questions and potential comprehension challenges. After thematic saturation was reached in one cycle, the tool was changed per participant input; cycles were completed until thematic saturation was reached overall.

Results: A total of 16 participants (six patient guardians and 10 patients) completed cognitive interviews throughout three cycles. Participant feedback included suggestions for further clarification and simplification of survey questions for improved comprehension. The survey was thus reduced and simplified from 16 questions concerning five domains to 10 questions concerning four domains.

Conclusion: We used an iterative cognitive interviewing process to develop a social screening tool for use in EDs. This process demonstrates the importance of patient input to refine questionnaires, and provides a brief screening tool for ED use.

  • 2 supplemental files

Erratum (Staff Only)

This Article Corrects: "Conference Didactic Planning and Structure: An Evidence-based Guide to Best Practices from the Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors"

Emergency medicine residency programs around the country develop didactic conferences to prepare residents for board exams and independent practice. To our knowledge, there is not currently an evidence-based set of guidelines for programs to follow to ensure maximal benefit of didactics for learners. This paper offers expert guidelines for didactic instruction from members of the Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors Best Practices Subcommittee, based on best available evidence. Programs can use these recommendations to further optimize their resident conference structure and content. Recommendations in this manuscript include best practices in formatting didactics, selection of facilitators and instructors, and duration of individual sessions. Authors also recommend following the Model of Clinical Practice of Emergency Medicine when developing content, while incorporating sessions dedicated to morbidity and mortality, research methodology, journal article review, administration, wellness, and professionalism.