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Journal Scan: Standardizing veterinary triage for emergency patients


An analysis of the best method to prioritize critical patients.

What they did

Researchers evaluated the use of a standardized veterinary triage list-modified from a human five-point triage system-against target waiting times prospectively determined by veterinary triage technicians and retrospectively determined by a review team made up of veterinarians. The target waiting times determined by the veterinarian review team were used as the gold standard for the study. The goal of the veterinary triage list was to link clinical complaints (based on the history provided by the owner as well as a visual inspection of the pet) to urgency and estimated target waiting time. Target waiting time categories included 0, 15, 30-60, and 120 minutes and were associated with triage categories red, orange, yellow, and green, respectively.

What they found

There was significantly greater agreement between the target waiting times of the veterinary triage list and the veterinarian review team than between the target waiting times of the veterinary technicians and the veterinarian review team. These findings suggest that intuitive triage performed by veterinary technicians is less effective at appropriately categorizing emergency patients compared with use of a standardized veterinary triage list.

Take-home message

A physical examination in all emergency patients, use of a standardized triage system, and specific training for personnel involved in triage assessment are essential to categorizing urgency and ensuring optimal and safe target wait times.

Ruys LJ, Gunning M, Teske E, et al. Evaluation of a veterinary triage list modified from a human five-point triage system in 485 dogs and cats. J Vet Emerg Crit Care 2012;22(3):303-312.

Link to abstract: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1476-4431.2012.00736.x/abstract

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