The Bureau of Health Information (BHI) published a report on the performance of emergency departments across NSW for the July-September quarter of 2011.48 As shown in Figure 2, the distribution of patients across triage categories in the BHI report was significantly different to the distribution of patients across triage categories in this study dataset (i.e., presentations with only one test order episode; χ2=5295, df=4, p<0.0001). More presentations were triaged as potentially life threatening (triage category=3) in this dataset (47%) than that in the BHI dataset (32%) and fewer presentations were triaged as less urgent (triage category=5) in this dataset (2%) than those in the BHI dataset (14%). A potential explanation for this difference is that this study dataset analysis only included those ED patients who had pathology tests during their stay. Additionally, patients who did not have any pathology tests might be more likely to be triaged into the “Less urgent (5)” category and, therefore, be excluded from this study dataset.
Figure 2. Comparison between this study dataset and the data reported by BHI of the proportion of ED presentations accounted for by each triage category.
The median ED LOS for all emergency and non-emergency presentations with recorded discharge time at the EDs across all NSW hospitals, as shown in the BHI report, was 7 hours and 3 minutes. The median ED LOS for the same categories of ED presentations in this study dataset was 6 hours and 37 minutes. Potential reasons for this difference include:
- LOS in our analysis was calculated from the available triage time to discharge time, not from the patients’ actual arrival time (a systematically longer time);
- Our analysis excluded ED presentations with more than one test order episode, which would seem more likely to have a longer LOS than presentations with only one test order episode.