Effectiveness of clinical criteria in directing patient flow from the emergency department to a medical assessment unit in Queensland, Australia: a retrospective chart review of hospital administrative data

Osborne, Sonya ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2826-0627 and Cleak, Helen and White, Nicole and Lee, Xing and Deacon, Anthony and de Looze, Julian W. M. (2021) Effectiveness of clinical criteria in directing patient flow from the emergency department to a medical assessment unit in Queensland, Australia: a retrospective chart review of hospital administrative data. BMC Health Services Research, 21 (1):527.

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Medical Assessment Units (MAUs) have become a popular model of acute medical care to improve patient flow through timely clinical assessment and patient management. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of a consensus-derived set of clinical criteria for patient streaming from the Emergency Department (ED) to a 15-bed MAU within the highly capacity-constrained environment of a large quaternary hospital in Queensland, Australia.

Clinically coded data routinely submitted for inter-hospital benchmarking purposes was used to identify the cohort of medical admission patients presenting to the ED in February 2016 (summer) and June 2016 (winter). A retrospective review of patient medical records for this cohort was then conducted to extract MAU admission data, de-identified patient demographic data, and clinical criteria. The primary outcome was the proportion of admissions that adhered to the MAU admission criteria.

Of the total of 540 included patients, 386 (71 %) patients were deemed to meet the MAU eligibility admission criteria. Among patients with MAU indications, 66 % were correctly transferred (95 % CI: 61 to 71) to the MAU; this estimated sensitivity was statistically significant when compared with random allocation (p-value < 0.001). Transfer outcomes for patients with contraindications were subject to higher uncertainty, with a high proportion of these patients incorrectly transferred to the MAU (73 % transferred; 95 % CI: 50 to 89 %; p-value = 0.052).

Based on clinical criteria, approximately two-thirds of patients were appropriately transferred to the MAU; however, a larger proportion of patients were inappropriately transferred to the MAU. While clinical criteria and judgement are generally established as the process in making decisions to transfer patients to a limited-capacity MAU, our findings suggest that other contextual factors such as bed availability, time of day, and staffing mix, including discipline profile of decision-making staff during ordinary hours and after hours, may influence decisions in directing patient flow. Further research is needed to better understand the interplay of other determinants of clinician decision making behaviour to inform strategies for improving more efficient use of MAUs, and the impact this has on clinical outcomes, length of stay, and patient flow measures in MAUs.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: © The Author(s). 2021 Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Nursing and Midwifery (1 Jan 2015 - )
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Resilient Regions - Centre for Health Research (1 Apr 2020 -)
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2021 01:59
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 23:54
Uncontrolled Keywords: medical assessment unit, MAU, emergency room, patient flow, retrospective medical record review, chart audit
Fields of Research (2008): 11 Medical and Health Sciences > 1199 Other Medical and Health Sciences > 119999 Medical and Health Sciences not elsewhere classified
Fields of Research (2020): 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4203 Health services and systems > 420399 Health services and systems not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970111 Expanding Knowledge in the Medical and Health Sciences
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 20 HEALTH > 2002 Evaluation of health and support services > 200206 Health system performance (incl. effectiveness of programs)
20 HEALTH > 2002 Evaluation of health and support services > 200202 Evaluation of health outcomes
Identification Number or DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-021-06537-7
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/42193

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