Journal Article

Reasons Why Emergency Department Providers Do Not Rely on the Pneumonia Severity Index to Determine the Initial Site of Treatment for Patients with Pneumonia

Drahomir Aujesky, Julie B. McCausland, Jeff Whittle, D. Scott Obrosky, Donald M. Yealy and Michael J. Fine

in Clinical Infectious Diseases

Published on behalf of Infectious Diseases Society of America

Volume 49, issue 10, pages e100-e108
Published in print November 2009 | ISSN: 1058-4838
Published online November 2009 | e-ISSN: 1537-6591 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/644741
Reasons Why Emergency Department Providers Do Not Rely on the Pneumonia Severity Index to Determine the Initial Site of Treatment for Patients with Pneumonia

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Background. Many emergency department (ED) providers do not follow guideline recommendations for the use of the pneumonia severity index (PSI) to determine the initial site of treatment for patients with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). We identified the reasons why ED providers hospitalize low-risk patients or manage higher-risk patients as outpatients.

Methods. As a part of a trial to implement a PSI-based guideline for the initial site of treatment of patients with CAP, we analyzed data for patients managed at 12 EDs allocated to a high-intensity guideline implementation strategy study arm. The guideline recommended outpatient care for low-risk patients (nonhypoxemic patients with a PSI risk classification of I, II, or III) and hospitalization for higher-risk patients (hypoxemic patients or patients with a PSI risk classification of IV or V). We asked providers who made guideline-discordant decisions on site of treatment to detail the reasons for nonadherence to guideline recommendations.

Results. There were 1,306 patients with CAP (689 low-risk patients and 617 higher-risk patients). Among these patients, physicians admitted 258 (37.4%) of 689 low-risk patients and treated 20 (3.2%) of 617 higher-risk patients as outpatients. The most commonly reported reasons for admitting low-risk patients were the presence of a comorbid illness (178 [71.5%] of 249 patients); a laboratory value, vital sign, or symptom that precluded ED discharge (73 patients [29.3%]); or a recommendation from a primary care or a consulting physician (48 patients [19.3%]). Higher-risk patients were most often treated as outpatients because of a recommendation by a primary care or consulting physician (6 [40.0%] of 15 patients).

Conclusion. ED providers hospitalize many low-risk patients with CAP, most frequently for a comorbid illness. Although higher-risk patients are infrequently treated as outpatients, this decision is often based on the request of an involved physician.

Journal Article.  4256 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Infectious Diseases ; Immunology ; Public Health and Epidemiology ; Microbiology

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