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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 22, Issue 6, 2021

Emergency Department Operations

Retrospective Analysis of Adult Patients Presenting to the Acute Care Setting Requesting Prescriptions

Introduction: Patient visits to the emergency department (ED) or urgent care centre (UCC) for the sole purpose of requesting prescriptions are challenging for the patient, the physician, and the department. The primary objective of this study was to determine the characteristics of these patients, the nature of their requests, and the response to these requests. Our secondary objective was to determine the proportion of these medication requests that had street value. 

Methods: This was a retrospective, electronic chart review of all adult patients requesting a prescription from a two-site ED and/or an UCC in a medium-sized Canadian city between April 1, 2014–June 30, 2017. Recorded outcomes included patient demographic data and access to a family doctor, medication requested, whether or not a prescription was given, and ED length of stay. Medication street value was determined using a local police service listing. 

Results: A total of 2,265 prescriptions were requested by 1,495 patients. The patient median [interquartile range] age was 43 [32-54] years. A family doctor was documented by 55.4% (939/1,694) of patients. The two most commonly requested categories of medications were opioid analgesics 21.2% (481/2,265) and benzodiazepine anxiolytics 11.7% (266/2,265). Of patients requesting medication, 50.5% (755/1,495) requested medications without street value including some with potential to cause serious adverse health effects if discontinued. The requested prescription was received by 19.9% (298/1,495) of patients; 15.3% (173/1,134) returned for further prescription requests. The 90th percentile length of stay was 3.2 and 5.6 hours at the UCC and ED, respectively.

Conclusion: Patients who presented to the ED or UCC sought medications with and without street value in almost equal measure. A more robust understanding of these patients and their requests illustrates why a ‘one-size-fits-all’ response to these requests is inappropriate and signals some fault lines within our local healthcare system.

A Scoping Review of Emergency Department Discharge Risk Stratification

Introduction: Although emergency department (ED) discharge presents patient-safety challenges and opportunities, the ways in which EDs address discharge risk in the general ED population remains disparate and largely uncharacterized. In this study our goal was to conduct a review of how EDs identify and target patients at increased risk at time of discharge. 

Methods: We conducted a literature search to explore how EDs assess patient risk upon discharge, including a review of PubMed and gray literature. After independently screening articles for inclusion, we recorded study characteristics including outcome measures, patient risk factors, and tool descriptions. Based on this review and discussion among collaborators, major themes were identified.

Results: PubMed search yielded 384 potentially eligible articles. After title and abstract review, we screened 235 for potential inclusion. After full text and reference review, supplemented by Google Scholar and gray literature reviews, we included 30 articles for full review. Three major themes were elucidated: 1) Multiple studies include retrospective risk assessment, whereas the use of point-of-care risk assessment tools appears limited; 2) of the point-of-care tools that exist, inputs and outcome measures varied, and few were applicable to the general ED population; and 3) while many studies describe initiatives to improve the discharge process, few describe assessment of post-discharge resource needs.

Conclusion: Numerous studies describe factors associated with an increased risk of readmission and adverse events after ED discharge, but few describe point-of-care tools used by physicians for the general ED population. Future work is needed to investigate standardized tools that assess ED discharge risk and patients’ needs upon ED discharge.


  • 2 supplemental ZIPs

“Friction by Definition”: Conflict at Patient Handover Between Emergency and Internal Medicine Physicians at an Academic Medical Center

Introduction: Patient handoffs from emergency physicians (EP) to internal medicine (IM) physicians may be complicated by conflict with the potential for adverse outcomes. The objective of this study was to identify the specific types of, and contributors to, conflict between EPs and IM physicians in this context. 

Methods: We performed a qualitative focus group study using a constructivist grounded theory approach involving emergency medicine (EM) and IM residents and faculty at a large academic medical center. Focus groups assessed perspectives and experiences of EP/IM physician interactions related to patient handoffs. We interpreted data with the matrix analytic method.

Results: From May to December 2019, 24 residents (IM = 11, EM = 13) and 11 faculty (IM = 6, EM = 5) from the two departments participated in eight focus groups and two interviews. Two key themes emerged: 1) disagreements about disposition (ie, whether a patient needed to be admitted, should go to an intensive care unit, or required additional testing before transfer to the floor); and 2) contextual factors (ie, the request to discuss an admission being a primer for conflict; lack of knowledge of the other person and their workflow; high clinical workload and volume; and different interdepartmental perspectives on the benefits of a rapid emergency department workflow). 

Conclusions: Causes of conflict at patient handover between EPs and IM physicians are related primarily to disposition concerns and contextual factors. Using theoretical models of task, process, and relationship conflict, we suggest recommendations to improve the EM/IM interaction to potentially reduce conflict and advance patient care.

  • 1 supplemental ZIP

Endemic Infections

Sources of Distress and Coping Strategies Among Emergency Physicians During COVID-19

Introduction: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been shown to increase levels of psychological distress among healthcare workers. Little is known, however, about specific positive and negative individual and organizational factors that affect the mental health of emergency physicians (EP) during COVID-19. Our objective was to assess these factors in a broad geographic sample of EPs in the United States. 

Methods: We conducted an electronic, prospective, cross-sectional national survey of EPs from October 6–December 29, 2020. Measures assessed negative mental health outcomes (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and insomnia), positive work-related outcomes, and strategies used to cope with COVID-19. After preliminary analyses and internal reliability testing, we performed four separate three-stage hierarchical multiple regression analyses to examine individual and organizational predictive factors for psychological distress. 

Results: Response rate was 50%, with 517 EPs completing the survey from 11 different sites. Overall, 85% of respondents reported negative psychological effects due to COVID-19. Participants reported feeling more stressed (31%), lonelier (26%), more anxious (25%), more irritable (24%) and sadder (17.5%). Prevalence of mental health conditions was 17% for depression, 13% for anxiety, 7.5% for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and 18% for insomnia. Regular exercise decreased from 69% to 56%, while daily alcohol use increased from 8% to 15%. Coping strategies of behavioral disengagement, self-blame, and venting were significant predictors of psychological distress, while humor and positive reframing were negatively associated with psychological distress. 

Conclusion: Emergency physicians have experienced high levels of psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those using avoidant coping strategies were most likely to experience depression, anxiety, insomnia, and PTSD, while humor and positive reframing were effective coping strategies.

  • 1 supplemental PDF
  • 4 supplemental ZIPs

A Dispatch Screening Tool to Identify Patients at High Risk for COVID-19 in the Prehospital Setting

Introduction: Emergency medical services (EMS) dispatchers have made efforts to determine whether patients are high risk for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) so that appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) can be donned. A screening tool is valuable as the healthcare community balances protection of medical personnel and conservation of PPE. There is little existing literature on the efficacy of prehospital COVID-19 screening tools. The objective of this study was to determine the positive and negative predictive value of an emergency infectious disease surveillance tool for detecting COVID-19 patients and the impact of positive screening on PPE usage. 

Methods: This study was a retrospective chart review of prehospital care reports and hospital electronic health records. We abstracted records for all 911 calls to an urban EMS from March 1–July 31, 2020 that had a documented positive screen for COVID-19 and/or had a positive COVID-19 test. The dispatch screen solicited information regarding travel, sick contacts, and high-risk symptoms. We reviewed charts to determine dispatch-screening results, the outcome of patients’ COVID-19 testing, and documentation of crew fidelity to PPE guidelines. 

Results: The sample size was 263. The rate of positive COVID-19 tests for all-comers in the state of Massachusetts was 2.0%. The dispatch screen had a sensitivity of 74.9% (confidence interval [CI], 69.21-80.03) and a specificity of 67.7% (CI, 66.91-68.50). The positive predictive value was 4.5% (CI, 4.17-4.80), and the negative predictive value was 99.3% (CI, 99.09-99.40). The most common symptom that triggered a positive screen was shortness of breath (51.5% of calls). The most common high-risk population identified was skilled nursing facility patients (19.5%), but most positive tests did not belong to a high-risk population (58.1%). The EMS personnel were documented as wearing full PPE for the patient in 55.7% of encounters, not wearing PPE in 8.0% of encounters, and not documented in 27.9% of encounters.

Conclusion: This dispatch-screening questionnaire has a high negative predictive value but moderate sensitivity and therefore should be used with some caution to guide EMS crews in their PPE usage. Clinical judgment is still essential and may supersede screening status.

Clinical Characteristics Associated with Return Visits to the Emergency Department after COVID-19 Diagnosis

Introduction: Patients diagnosed with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) require significant healthcare resources. While published research has shown clinical characteristics associated with severe illness from COVID-19, there is limited data focused on the emergency department (ED) discharge population. 

Methods: We performed a retrospective chart review of all ED-discharged patients from Wake Forest Baptist Health and Wake Forest Baptist Health Davie Medical Center between April 25-August 9, 2020, who tested positive for severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) from a nasopharyngeal swab using real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) tests. We compared the clinical characteristics of patients who were discharged and had return visits within 30 days to those patients who did not return to the ED within 30 days.  

Results: Our study included 235 adult patients who had an ED-performed SARS-CoV-2 rRT-PCR positive test and were subsequently discharged on their first ED visit. Of these patients, 57 (24.3%) had return visits to the ED within 30 days for symptoms related to COVID-19. Of these 57 patients, on return ED visits 27 were admitted to the hospital and 30 were not admitted. Of the 235 adult patients who were discharged, 11.5% (27) eventually required admission for COVID-19-related symptoms. With 24.3% patients having a return ED visit after a positive SARS-CoV-2 test and 11.5% requiring eventual admission, it is important to understand clinical characteristics associated with return ED visits. We performed multivariate logistic regression analysis of the clinical characteristics with independent association resulting in a return ED visit, which demonstrated the following: diabetes (odds ratio [OR] 2.990, 95% confidence interval [CI, 1.21-7.40, P = 0.0179); transaminitis (OR 8.973, 95% CI, 2.65-30.33, P = 0.004); increased pulse at triage (OR 1.04, 95% CI, 1.02-1.07, P = 0.0002); and myalgia (OR 4.43, 95% CI, 2.03-9.66, P = 0.0002). 

Conclusion: As EDs across the country continue to treat COVID-19 patients, it is important to understand the clinical factors associated with ED return visits related to SARS-CoV-2 infection.  We identified key clinical characteristics associated with return ED visits for patients initially diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 infection: diabetes mellitus; increased pulse at triage; transaminitis; and complaint of myalgias.

Viral Coinfection is Associated with Improved Outcomes in Emergency Department Patients with SARS-CoV-2

Introduction: Coinfection with severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and another virus may influence the clinical trajectory of emergency department (ED) patients. However, little empirical data exists on the clinical outcomes of coinfection with SARS-CoV-2

Methods: In this retrospective cohort analysis, we included adults presenting to the ED with confirmed, symptomatic coronavirus 2019 who also underwent testing for additional viral pathogens within 24 hours. To investigate the association between coinfection status with each of the outcomes, we performed logistic regression.

Results: Of 6,913 ED patients, 5.7% had coinfection. Coinfected individuals were less likely to experience index visit or 30-day hospitalization (odds ratio [OR] 0.57; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.36-0.90 and OR 0.39; 95% CI, 0.25–0.62, respectively).

Conclusion: Coinfection is relatively uncommon in symptomatic ED patients with SARS-CoV-2 and the clinical short- and long-term outcomes are more favorable in coinfected individuals.

Behavioral Health

Healthcare Use After Buprenorphine Prescription in a Community Emergency Department: A Cohort Study

Introduction: Recent studies from urban academic centers have shown the promise of emergency physician-initiated buprenorphine for improving outcomes in opioid use disorder (OUD) patients. We investigated whether emergency physician-initiated buprenorphine in a rural, community setting decreases subsequent healthcare utilization for OUD patients. 

Methods: We performed a retrospective chart review of patients presenting to a community hospital emergency department (ED) who received a prescription for buprenorphine from June 15, 2018–June 15, 2019. Demographic and opioid-related International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision, (ICD-10) codes were documented and used to create a case-matched control cohort of demographically matched patients who presented in a similar time frame with similar ICD-10 codes but did not receive buprenorphine. We recorded 12-month rates of ED visits, all-cause hospitalizations, and opioid overdoses. Differences in event occurrences between groups were assessed with Poisson regression. 

Results: Overall 117 patients were included in the study: 59 who received buprenorphine vs 58 controls. The groups were well matched, both roughly 90% White and 60% male, with an average age of 33.4 years for both groups. Controls had a median two ED visits (range 0-33), median 0.5 hospitalizations (range 0-8), and 0 overdoses (range 0-3), vs median one ED visit (range 0-8), median 0 hospitalizations (range 0-4), and median 0 overdoses (range 0-3) in the treatment group. The incidence rate ratio (IRR) for counts of ED visits was 0.61, 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.49, 0.75, favoring medication-assisted treatment (MAT). For hospitalizations, IRR was 0.34, 95% CI, 0.22, 0.52 favoring MAT, and for overdoses was 1.04, 95% CI, 0.53, 2.07. 

Conclusion: Initiation of buprenorphine by ED providers was associated with lower 12-month ED visit and all-cause hospitalization rates with comparable overdose rates compared to controls. These findings show the ED’s potential as an initiation point for medication-assisted treatment in OUD patients.

Assessment and Diagnosis of Mental Illness in EDs Among Individuals Without a Home: Findings from the National Hospital Ambulatory Care Survey

Introduction: Homeless individuals lack resources for primary healthcare and as a result use the emergency department (ED) as a social safety net. Our primary objective in this study was to identify the differences between features of visits to United States (US) EDs made by patients without a home and patients who live in a private residence presenting with mental health symptoms or no mental health symptoms at triage.

Methods: Data for this study come from the 2009-2017 National Health and Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a nationally representative cross-sectional survey of ED visits in the US. We examined differences in waiting time, length of visit, and triage score among homeless patients, and privately housed and nursing home residents. We used logistic regression to determine the odds of receiving a mental health diagnosis. Residence, age, gender, race, urgency, and whether the person was seen in the ED in the previous 72 hours were controlled. 

Results: Homeless individuals made up less than 1% of all ED visits during this period. Of these visits,  47.2%  resulted in a mental health diagnosis compared to those who live in a private residence. Adjusting for age, race, gender, triage score, and whether the person had been seen in the prior 72 hours, homeless individuals were still six times more likely to receive a mental health diagnosis despite reporting no mental health symptoms compared to individuals who lived in a private residence. Homeless individuals reporting mental health symptoms were two times more likely to receive a mental health diagnosis compared to privately housed and nursing home residents. 

Conclusions: Homeless individuals are more likely to receive a mental health diagnosis in the ED whether or not they present with mental health symptoms at triage. This study suggests that homelessness as a status impacts how these individuals receive care in the ED. Community coordination is needed to expand treatment options for individuals experiencing emergent mental health symptoms.

Healthcare Utilization

The Association of Demographic, Socioeconomic, and Geographic Factors with Potentially Preventable Emergency Department Utilization

Introduction: Prevention quality indicators (PQI) are a set of measures used to characterize healthcare utilization for conditions identified as being potentially preventable with high quality ambulatory care. These indicators have recently been adapted for emergency department (ED) patient presentations. In this study the authors sought to identify opportunities to potentially prevent emergency conditions and to strengthen systems of ambulatory care by analyzing patterns of ED utilization for PQI conditions.

Methods: Using multivariable logistic regression, the authors analyzed the relationship of patient demographics and neighborhood-level socioeconomic indicators with ED utilization for PQI conditions based on ED visits at an urban, academic medical center in 2017. We also used multilevel modeling to assess the contribution of these variables to neighborhood-level variation in the likelihood of an ED visit for a PQI condition.

Results: Of the included 98,522 visits, 17.5% were categorized as potentially preventable based on the ED PQI definition. On multivariate analysis, age < 18 years, Black race, and Medicare insurance had the strongest positive associations with PQI visits, with adjusted odds ratios (aOR) of 1.41 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.29, 1.56), 1.40 (95% CI, 1.22, 1.61), and 1.40 (95% CI, 1.28, 1.54), respectively. All included neighborhood-level socioeconomic variables were significantly associated with PQI visit likelihood on univariable analysis; however; only level of education attainment and private car ownership remained significantly associated in the multivariable model, with aOR of 1.13 (95% CI, 1.10, 1.17) and 0.96 (95% CI, 0.93, 0.99) per quartile increase, respectively. This multilevel model demonstrated significant variation in PQI visit likelihood attributable to neighborhood, with interclass correlation decreasing from 5.92% (95% CI, 5.20, 6.73) in our unadjusted model to 4.12% (95% CI, 3.47, 4.87) in our fully adjusted model and median OR similarly decreasing from 1.54 to 1.43.

Conclusion: Demographic and local socioeconomic factors were significantly associated with ED utilization for PQI conditions. Future public health efforts can bolster efforts to target underlying social drivers of health and support access to primary care for patients who are Black, Latino, pediatric, or Medicare-dependent to potentially prevent emergency conditions (and the need for emergency care). Further research is needed to explore other factors beyond demographics and socioeconomic characteristics driving spatial variation in ED PQI visit likelihood.

Role of Creatine Kinase in the Troponin Era: A Systematic Review

Introduction: The diagnosis of non-ST-elevated myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) depends on a combination of history, electrocardiogram, and cardiac biomarkers. The most sensitive and specific biomarkers for cardiac injury are the troponin assays. Many hospitals continue to automatically order less sensitive and less specific biomarkers such as creatine kinase (CK) alongside cardiac troponin (cTn) for workup of patients with chest pain. The objective of this systematic review was to identify whether CK testing is useful in the workup of patients with NSTEMI symptoms.

Methods: We undertook a systematic review to ascertain whether CK ordered as part of the workup for NSTEMI was useful in screening patients with cardiac chest pain. The MEDLINE, Embase, and Cochrane databases were searched from January 1995–September 2020. Additional papers were added after consultation with experts. We screened a total of 2,865 papers, of which eight were included in the final analysis. These papers all compared CK and cTn for NSTEMI diagnosis. 

Results: In each of the eight papers included in the analysis, cTn showed a greater sensitivity and specificity than CK in the diagnosis of NSTEMI. Furthermore, none of the articles published reliable evidence that CK is useful in NSTEMI diagnosis when troponin was negative. 

Conclusion: There is no evidence to continue to use CK as part of the workup of NSTEMI acute coronary syndrome in undifferentiated chest pain patients. We conclude that CK should not be used to screen patients presenting to the emergency department with chest pain.


  • 1 supplemental ZIP


Food Insecurity in a Pediatric Emergency Department and the Feasibility of Universal Screening

Introduction: Children with food insecurity (FI) experience adverse health outcomes due to inadequate quantity or quality of food. Food insecurity may be high among families seeking emergency care. The Hunger Vital Sign (HVS) is a two-question validated tool used to screen families for FI. Our goal in this study was to assess prevalence of FI among emergency department (ED) patients, patient-level risk factors for FI, and the feasibility of screening. 

Methods: This was a cross-sectional analysis of FI in the ED. Parents or guardians of ED patients and adult patients (18 years or older) were approached for screening using the HVS during screening periods spanning weekdays/weekends and days/evenings. All ED patients were eligible, excluding siblings, repeat visits, critically ill patients, minors without a guardian, and families that healthcare staff asked us not to disturb. Families answered the HVS questions verbally or in writing, based on preference. Families with positive screens received information about food resources. We summarized patient and visit characteristics and defined medical complexity using a published algorithm. Multivariable logistic regression was used to assess FI risk factors.

Results: In July-August 2019, 527 patients presented during screening periods: 439 agreed to screening, 18 declined, 19 met exclusions, and 51 were missed. On average the screening tool required five minutes (range 3-10 minutes) to complete. Most families (328; 75%) preferred to answer in writing rather than verbally. Overall, 77 participants (17.5%) screened positive for FI. In regression analyses, FI was associated with self-reported race/ethnicity (combined variable) of African American or Black (odds ratio [OR] 5.21, 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.13-12.77), Hispanic (OR 3.47, 95% CI, 1.48-8.15), or mixed/other (OR 3.81, 95% CI, 1.54-9.39), compared to non-Hispanic white. FI was also associated with public insurance type (OR 5.74, 95% CI, 2.52-13.07, reference: private insurance), and each year of increasing patient age (OR 1.05, 95% CI, 1.01-1.09). There were no associations between FI and medical complexity or preferred language. 

Conclusion: Food insecurity was common among our ED patients. Race and ethnicity, insurance status, and increasing patient age were associated with increased odds of FI. Efforts to include universal FI screening for ED patients with immediate connection to resources will enhance overall care quality and address important health needs.

  • 1 supplemental ZIP

Surgical Treatment of Pediatric Dog-bite Wounds: A 5-year Retrospective Review

Introduction: Dog bites are a significant health concern in the pediatric population. Few studies published to date have stratified the injuries caused by dog bites based on surgical severity to elucidate the contributing risk factors.  

Methods: We used an electronic hospital database to identify all patients ≤17 years of age treated for dog bites from 2013–2018. Data related to patient demographics, injury type, intervention, dog breed, and payer source were collected. We extracted socioeconomic data from the American Community Survey. Data related to dog breed was obtained from public records on dog licenses. We calculated descriptive statistics as well as relative risk of dog bite by breed.

Results: Of 1,252 injuries identified in 967 pediatric patients, 17.1% required consultation with a surgical specialist for repair. Bites affecting the head/neck region were most common (61.7%) and most likely to require operating room intervention (P = 0.002). The relative risk of a patient being bitten in a low-income area was 2.24, compared with 0.46 in a high-income area. Among cases where the breed of dog responsible for the bite was known, the dog breed most commonly associated with severe bites was the pit bull (relative risk vs German shepherd 8.53, relative risk vs unknown, 3.28). 

Conclusion: The majority of injuries did not require repair and were sufficiently handled by an emergency physician. Repair by a surgical specialist was required <20% of the time, usually for bites affecting the head/neck region. Disparities in the frequency and characteristics of dog bites across socioeconomic levels and dog breeds suggest that public education efforts may decrease the incidence of pediatric dog bites.

Emergency Medical Services

Centralized Ambulance Destination Determination: A Retrospective Data Analysis to Determine Impact on EMS System Distribution, Surge Events, and Diversion Status

Introduction: Emergency medical services (EMS) systems can become impacted by sudden surges that can occur throughout the day, as well as by natural disasters and the current pandemic. Because of this, emergency department crowding and ambulance “bunching,” or surges in ambulance-transported patients at receiving hospitals, can have a detrimental effect on patient care and financial implications for an EMS system. The Centralized Ambulance Destination Determination (CAD-D) project was initially created as a pilot project to look at the impact of an active, online base hospital physician and paramedic supervisor to direct patient destination and distribution, as a way to improve ambulance distribution, decrease surges at hospitals, and decrease diversion status. 

Methods: The project was initiated March 17, 2020, with a six-week baseline period; it had three additional study phases where the CAD-D was recommended (Phase 1), mandatory (Phase 2), and modified (Phase 3), respectively. We used coefficients of variation (CV) statistical analysis to measure the relative variability between datasets (eg, CAD-D phases), with a lower variation showing better and more even distribution across the different hospitals. We used analysis of co-variability for the CV to determine whether level loading was improved systemwide across the three phases against the baseline period. The primary outcomes of this study were the following: to determine the impact of ambulance distribution across a geographical area by using the CV; to determine whether there was a decrease in surge rates at the busiest hospital in this area; and the effects on diversion.

Results: We calculated the CV of all ratios and used them as a measure of EMS patient distribution among hospitals. Mean CV was lower in Phase 2 as compared to baseline (1.56 vs 0.80 P < 0.05), and to baseline and Phase 3 (1.56 vs. 0.93, P <0.05). A lower CV indicates better distribution across more hospitals, instead of the EMS transports bunching at a few hospitals. Furthermore, the proportion of surge events was shown to be lower between baseline and Phase 1 (1.43 vs 0.77, P <0.05), baseline and Phase 2 (1.43 vs. 0.33, P < 0.05), and baseline and Phase 3 (1.43 vs 0.42, P < 0.05). Diversion was shown to increase over the system as a whole, despite decreased diversion rates at the busiest hospital in the system. 

Conclusion: In this retrospective study, we found that ambulance distribution increased across the system with the implementation of CAD-D, leading to better level loading. The surge rates decreased at some of the most impacted hospitals, while the rates of hospitals going on diversion paradoxically increased overall. Specifically, the results of this study showed that there was an improvement when comparing the CAD-D implementation vs the baseline period for both the ambulance distribution across the system (level loading/CV), and for surge events at three of the busiest hospitals in the system.

Estimated Cost Effectiveness of Influenza Vaccination for Emergency Medical Services Professionals

Introduction: Because of their frequent contact with compromised patients, vaccination against influenza is recommended for all healthcare workers. Recent studies suggest that vaccination decreases influenza transmission to patients and reduces worker illness and absenteeism. However, few emergency medical services (EMS) agencies provide annual vaccination, and the vaccination rate among EMS personnel remains low. Reticence among EMS agencies to provide influenza vaccination to their employees may be due in part to the unknown fiscal consequences of implementing a vaccination program. In this study, we sought to estimate the cost effectiveness of an employer-provided influenza vaccination program for EMS personnel.

Methods: Using data from published reports on influenza vaccination, we developed a cost-effectiveness model of vaccination for a hypothesized EMS system of 100 employees. Model inputs included vaccination costs, vaccination rate, infection rate, costs associated with absenteeism, lost productivity due to working while ill (presenteeism), and medical care for treating illness. To assess the robustness of the model we performed a series of sensitivity analyses on the input variables.

Results: The proportion of employees contracting influenza or influenza-like illness (ILI) was estimated at 19% among vaccinated employees compared to 26% among non-vaccinated employees. The costs of the vaccine, consumables, and employee time for vaccination totaled $44.19 per vaccinated employee, with a total system cost of $4,419. Compared to no vaccination, a mandatory vaccination program would save $20,745 in lost productivity and medical costs, or $16,325 in net savings after accounting for vaccination costs. The savings were 3.7 times the cost of the vaccination program and were derived from avoided absenteeism ($7,988), avoided presenteeism productivity losses ($10,303), and avoided medical costs of treating employees with influenza/ILI ($2,454). Through sensitivity analyses the model was verified to be robust across a wide range of input variable assumptions. The net monetary benefits were positive across all ranges of input assumptions, but cost savings were most sensitive to the vaccination uptake rate, ILI rate, and presenteeism productivity losses.

Conclusion: This cost-effectiveness analysis suggests that an employer-provided influenza vaccination program is a financially favorable strategy for reducing costs associated with influenza/ILI employee absenteeism, presenteeism, and medical care.


Clinical Practice

A Retrospective Cohort Study of Acute Epiglottitis in Adults

Introduction: Adult epiglottitis is a disease process distinct from pediatric epiglottitis in microbiology, presentation, and clinical course. While traditionally considered more indolent and benign than in children, adult epiglottitis remains a cause of acute airway compromise with a mortality rate from 1-20%. Our objective was to characterize the disease course and evaluate the rate and type of airway management in this population at a tertiary, academic referral center. 

Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of all adult patients (age ≥ 18) who were definitively diagnosed with infectious “epiglottitis,” “supraglottitis,” or “epiglottic abscess” by direct or indirect laryngoscopy during a nine-year period. Double data abstraction and a standardized data collection form were used to assess patient demographic characteristics, presenting features, and clinical course. The primary outcome was airway intervention by intubation, cricothyroidotomy, or tracheostomy, and the secondary outcome was mortality related to the disease. 

Results: Seventy patients met inclusion criteria. The mean age was 50.2 years (standard deviation ± 16.7), 60% of the patients were male, and 14.3% were diabetic. Fifty percent had symptoms that were present for ≥ 48 hours; 38.6% had voice changes, 13.1% had stridor, 12.9% had fever, 45.7% had odynophagia, and 47.1% had dysphagia noted in the ED. Twelve patients (17.1%) received an acute airway intervention including three who underwent emergent cricothyroidotomy, and one who had a tracheostomy. Two patients died and one suffered anoxic brain injury related to complications following difficult airway management. 

Conclusion: In this case series the majority of patients (82.9%) did not require airway intervention, but a third of those requiring intervention (5.7% of total) had a surgical airway performed with two deaths and one anoxic brain injury. Clinicians must remain vigilant to identify signs of impending airway compromise in acute adult epiglottitis and be familiar with difficult and failed airway algorithms to prevent morbidity and mortality in these patients.

  • 1 supplemental PDF
  • 2 supplemental ZIPs

Accuracy of Landmark-guided Glenohumeral Joint Injections as Assessed by Ultrasound in Anterior Shoulder Dislocations

Introduction: To determine the accuracy of landmark-guided shoulder joint injections (LGI) with point-of-care ultrasound for patients with anterior shoulder dislocations.

Methods: Patients with anterior shoulder dislocations who underwent LGI were enrolled at our tertiary-care and trauma center. LGI attempts were recorded by an ultrasound fellowship-trained ED physician who determined if they were placed successfully. Pain and satisfaction scores were recorded. 

Results: A total of 34 patients with anterior shoulder dislocation and their treating ED physicians were enrolled. 41.1% of all LGI were determined to be misplaced (n=14). Patients with successful LGI had a greater decrease in mean pain scores post-LGI. 

Conclusions: LGI had a substantial failure rate in our study. Using ultrasound-guidance to assist intra-articular injections may increase its accuracy and thus reduce pain and the need for subsequent procedural sedation.


A Positive Depression Screen Is Associated with Emergency Medicine Resident Burnout and Is not Affected by the Implementation of a Wellness Curriculum

Introduction: While burnout is occupation-specific, depression affects individuals comprehensively. Research on interventions for depression in emergency medicine (EM) residents is limited.  

Objectives: We sought to obtain longitudinal data on positive depression screens in EM residents, assess their association with burnout, and determine whether implementation of a wellness curriculum affected the rate of positive screens.

Methods: In February 2017, we administered the Maslach Burnout Inventory and the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders Patient Health Questionnaire two-question depression screen at 10 EM residencies. At five intervention sites, a year-long wellness curriculum was then introduced while five control sites agreed not to introduce new wellness initiatives during the study period. Study instruments were re-administered in August 2017 and February 2018.

Results: Of 382 residents, 285 participated in February 2017; 40% screened positive for depression. In August 2017, 247/386 residents participated; 27.9% screened positive for depression. In February 2018, 228/386 residents participated; 36.2% screened positive. A positive depression screen was associated with higher burnout. There were similar rates of positive screens at the intervention and control sites. 

Conclusion: Rates of positive depression screens in EM residents ranged between 27.9% and 40%. Residents with a positive screen reported higher levels of burnout. Rates of a positive screen were unaffected by introduction of a wellness curriculum.

  • 1 supplemental ZIP

Health Outcomes

United States Emergency Department Use of Medications with Pharmacogenetic Recommendations

Introduction: Emergency departments (ED) use many medications with a range of therapeutic efficacy and potential significant side effects, and many medications have dosage adjustment recommendations based on the patient’s specific genotype. How frequently medications with such pharmaco-genetic recommendations are used in United States (US) EDs has not been studied. 

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of the 2010–2015 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS). We reported the proportion of ED visits in which at least one medication with Clinical Pharmacogenetics Implementation Consortium (CPIC) recommendation of Level A or B evidence was ordered. Secondary comparisons included distributions and 95% confidence intervals of age, gender, race/ethnicity, ED disposition, geographical region, immediacy, and insurance status between all ED visits and those involving a CPIC medication.

Results: From 165,155 entries representing 805,726,000 US ED visits in the 2010–2015 NHAMCS, 148,243,000 ED visits (18.4%) led to orders of CPIC medications. The most common CPIC medication was tramadol (6.3%). Visits involving CPIC medications had higher proportions of patients who were female, had private insurance and self-pay, and were discharged from the ED. They also involved lower proportions of patients with Medicare and Medicaid. 

Conclusion: Almost one fifth of US ED visits involve a medication with a pharmacogenetic recommendation that may impact the efficacy and toxicity for individual patients. While direct application of genotyping is still in development, it is important for emergency care providers to understand and support this technology given its potential to improve individualized, patient- centered care.


  • 1 supplemental ZIP

Health Equity

Gender-based Barriers in the Advancement of Women Leaders in Emergency Medicine: A Multi-institutional Qualitative Study

Introduction: Leadership positions occupied by women within academic emergency medicine have remained stagnant despite increasing numbers of women with faculty appointments. We distributed a multi-institutional survey to women faculty and residents to evaluate categorical characteristics contributing to success and differences between the two groups.

Methods: An institutional review board-approved electronic survey was distributed to women faculty and residents at eight institutions and were completed anonymously. We created survey questions to assess multiple categories: determination; resiliency; career support and obstacles; career aspiration; and gender discrimination. Most questions used a Likert five-point scale. Responses for each question and category were averaged and deemed significant if the average was greater than or equal to 4 in the affirmative, or less than or equal to 2 in the negative. We calculated proportions for binary questions. 

Results: The overall response rate was 55.23% (95/172). The faculty response rate was 54.1% (59/109) and residents’ response rate was 57.1% (36/63). Significant levels of resiliency were reported, with a mean score of 4.02. Childbearing and rearing were not significant barriers overall but were more commonly reported as barriers for faculty over residents (P <0.001). Obstacles reported included a lack of confidence during work-related negotiations and insufficient research experience. Notably, 68.4% (65/95) of respondents experienced gender discrimination and 9.5% (9/95) reported at least one encounter of sexual assault by a colleague or supervisor during their career.

Conclusion: Targeted interventions to promote female leadership in academic emergency medicine include coaching on negotiation skills, improved resources and mentorship to support research, and enforcement of safe work environments. Female emergency physician resiliency is high and not a barrier to career advancement.

  • 1 supplemental ZIP

Societal Impact on Emergency Care

A Scoping Review of Current Social Emergency Medicine Research

Introduction: Social emergency medicine (EM) is an emerging field that examines the intersection of emergency care and social factors that influence health outcomes. We conducted a scoping review to explore the breadth and content of existing research pertaining to social EM to identify potential areas where future social EM research efforts should be directed.

Methods: We conducted a comprehensive PubMed search using Medical Subject Heading terms and phrases pertaining to social EM topic areas (e.g., “homelessness,” “housing instability”) based on previously published expert consensus. For searches that yielded fewer than 100 total publications, we used the PubMed “similar publications” tool to expand the search and ensure no relevant publications were missed. Studies were independently abstracted by two investigators and classified as relevant if they were conducted in US or Canadian emergency departments (ED). We classified relevant publications by study design type (observational or interventional research, systematic review, or commentary), publication site, and year. Discrepancies in relevant publications or classification were reviewed by a third investigator.

Results: Our search strategy yielded 1,571 publications, of which 590 (38%) were relevant to social EM; among relevant publications, 58 (10%) were interventional studies, 410 (69%) were observational studies, 26 (4%) were systematic reviews, and 96 (16%) were commentaries. The majority (68%) of studies were published between 2010–2020. Firearm research and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) health research in particular grew rapidly over the last five years. The human trafficking topic area had the highest percentage (21%) of interventional studies. A significant portion of publications -- as high as 42% in the firearm violence topic area – included observational data or interventions related to children or the pediatric ED. Areas with more search results often included many publications describing disparities known to predispose ED patients to adverse outcomes (e.g., socioeconomic or racial disparities), or the influence of social determinants on ED utilization. 

Conclusion: Social emergency medicine research has been growing over the past 10 years, although areas such as firearm violence and LGBTQ health have had more research activity than other topics. The field would benefit from a consensus-driven research agenda.

  • 2 supplemental ZIPs

Emergency Medicine Workforce

Survey-based Evaluation of Resident and Attending Financial Literacy

Introduction: Physician finances are linked to wellness and burnout. However, few physicians receive financial management education. We sought to determine the financial literacy and educational need of attending and resident physician at an academic emergency medicine (EM) residency. 

Methods: We performed a cross-sectional, survey study at an academic EM residency. We devised a 49-question survey with four major domains: demographics (16 questions); Likert-scale questions evaluating value placed on personal finances (3 questions); Likert-scale questions evaluating perceived financial literacy (11 questions); and a financial literacy test based on previously developed and widely used financial literacy questions (19 questions). We administered the survey to EM attendings and residents. We analyzed the data using descriptive statistics and compared attending and resident test question responses. 

Results: A total of 44 residents and 24 attendings responded to the survey. Few (9.0% of residents, 12.5% of attendings) reported prior formal financial education. However, most respondents (70.5% of residents and 79.2% of attendings) participated in financial self-learning. On a five-point Likert scale (not at all important: very important), respondents felt that financial independence (4.7 ± 0.8) and their finances (4.7±0.8) were important for their well-being. Additionally, they valued being prepared for retirement (4.7±0.9). Regarding perceived financial literacy (very uncomfortable: very comfortable), respondents had the lowest comfort level with investing in the stock market (2.7±1.5), applying for a mortgage (2.8±1.6), and managing their retirement (3.0±1.4). Residents scored significantly lower than attendings on the financial literacy test (70.8% vs 79.6%, P<0.01), and residents scored lower on questions pertaining to investment (78.8% v 88.9%, P<0.01) and insurance and taxes (47.0% v 70.8%, P<0.01). Overall, respondents scored lower on questions about retirement (58.8%, P<0.01) and insurance and taxes (54.7%, P<0.01).

Conclusion: Emergency physicians’ value of financial literacy exceeded confidence in financial literacy, and residents reported poorer confidence than attendings. We identified deficiencies in emergency physicians’ financial literacy for retirement, insurance, and taxes.

  • 1 supplemental ZIP

International Medicine

Epidemiology of Patients with Head Injury at a Tertiary Hospital in Rwanda

Introduction: Traumatic injuries disproportionately affect populations in low and middle-income countries (LMIC) where head injuries predominate. The Rwandan Ministry of Health (MOH) has dramatically improved access to emergency services by rebuilding its health infrastructure. The MOH has strengthened the nation’s acute emergency response by renovating emergency departments (ED), developing the field of emergency medicine as a specialty, and establishing a prehospital care service: Service d’Aide Medicale Urgente (SAMU). Despite the prevalence of traumatic injury in LMIC and the evolving emergency service in Rwanda, data regarding head trauma epidemiology is lacking.

Methods: We conducted this retrospective cohort study at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (UTH-K) and used a linked prehospital database to investigate the demographics, mechanism, and degree of acute medical interventions amongst prehospital patients with head injury. 

Results: Of the 2,426 patients transported by SAMU during the study period, 1,669 were found to have traumatic injuries. Data from 945 prehospital patients were accrued, with 534 (56.5%) of these patients diagnosed with a head injury. The median age was 30 years, with most patients being male (80.3%). Motor vehicle collisions accounted for almost 78% of all head injuries. One in six head injuries were due to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle. Emergency department interventions included intubations (6.7%), intravenous fluids (2.4%), and oxygen administration (4.9%). Alcohol use was not evaluated or could not be confirmed in 81.3% of head injury cases. The median length of stay (LOS) in the ED was two days (interquartile range: 1,3). A total of 184 patients were admitted, with 13% requiring craniotomies; their median in-hospital care duration was 13 days.

Conclusion: In this cohort of Rwandan trauma patients, head injury was most prevalent amongst males and pedestrians. Alcohol use was not evaluated in the majority of patients.  These traumatic patterns were predominantly due to road traffic injury, suggesting that interventions addressing the prevention of this mechanism, and treatment of head injury, may be beneficial in the Rwandan setting.