Assessing the Ability for Emergency Department Patients to Self-Triage by Using an Electronic Questionnaire: A Pilot Study

Sask-ST-ED Self-Triage

Saskatchewan (ED)

Introduction: The process of triage is used to prioritize the care of patients arriving in the emergency department (ED). To our knowledge, self-triage has not been previously studied in the general emergency department (ED) setting. In an attempt to test the feasibility of implementing this in the ED, we sought to assess the ability of ED patients to triage themselves using an electronic questionnaire. Methods: This was a prospective observational study. An iPad-based questionnaire was designed with a series of �yes� or �no� answers related to common chief complaints. A score corresponding to a Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS) category was assigned based on their answers, without the knowledge of patients or ED staff. These scores were subsequently compared to the official CTAS score assigned by triage nurses. A convenience sample of ambulatory patients arriving at the ED were enrolled over a four week period. Patients arriving by ambulance were excluded. We also sought to assess patients� ability to predict their ultimate disposition. Results: A total of 492 patients were enrolled. The mean age of enrolled patients was 43.9. Of enrolled patients, 56 (11.4%) were under 20 years old, 168 (34.1%) between ages 20-39, 116 (23.6%) between ages 40-59 and 152 (30.9%) older than 60 years. We had 245 (49.8%) patients identify as male. Patient-determined CTAS scores were as follows: 146 CTAS 1 (26.7%), 66 CTAS 2 (13.4%), 176 CTAS 3 (35.8%) and 104 CTAS 4 and 5 (21.1%). Formal triage CTAS scores were: 47 CTAS 2 (9.6%), 155 CTAS 3 (31.5%), and 290 CTAS 4 and 5 (59%). With our survey tool, 22.2% of patients matched their official triage scores. We found that that 69.9% of participants over-estimated their CTAS score while 7.9% underestimated it. Two hundred and three patients (41.3%) felt that they needed to be admitted. In fact, 73 patients (17.3%) were admitted to hospital. Conclusion: Using an electronic questionnaire, ambulatory patients frequently overestimated the acuity of their presenting complaint. Patients were also not unable to accurately predict their disposition. Further study of different approaches to selftriage is needed before possible implementation in EDs.

Sachin Trivedi -

Preliminary data gathering/ baseline