Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the impact of incorporating a physician at triage (PAT) and the implementation of a medical assessment unit (MAU) on emergency department (ED) patient throughput. Methods: A retrospective comparative analysis of two additional models of care (standard care, T1; PAT, T2 and PATplusMAU, T3) was undertaken. Patient presentations to a large public teaching hospital in South-East Queensland between 10th January 2013 and 25th February 2013, and the same time period in 2012, were included. The impact of these care models on ED length of stay and other outcomes (time to be seen by a clinician, time from bed request to ward transfer, meeting 4 hour transit targets, admission rates and the proportion of patients who did not wait) were compared. Results: Compared to standard care, ED length of stay appeared to decrease with the introduction of both models, but was only significantly decreased after PATplusMAU was implemented (2013; T1, 186 min; T2, 181 min; T3, 175 min: T1 vs T3, P < 0.001). Outcomes that improved included: time to be seen by a clinician, proportion of patients who did not wait; increase in meeting 4-hour length of stay target for both admitted and not-admitted patients. Conclusion: Placing a physician at triage and implementing a medical assessment unit were viable models of care that promoted patient flow and helped meet several time-sensitive health service targets.
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