Emergency department (ED) crowding is an issue, especially when demand for ED care is high, such as during an influenza epidemic. One potential strategy is to develop automated algorithms so patients can self-triage to determine if they need to visit the ED, according to the study background.
Rebecca Anhang Price, PhD, of the RAND Corporation, and colleagues conducted a pilot validation study during the 2012 influenza season to get feedback on the Strategy for Off-site Rapid Triage (SORT) for Kids, a web-based tool intended to triage patients affected by the flu.
An adult version of the triage tool was made available to the public during the 2009 influenza pandemic, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which jointly devised the pediatric algorithm, would not endorse the effort to make such a tool available for pediatric patients without evidence of its safety.
Researchers were interested in parental feedback on the SORT for Kids website’s usability and the sensitivity and specificity of its underlying algorithm. The study, which included 294 parents and adult caregivers of children with influenza-like illness (ILI), was conducted between February 8 and April 30, 2012 at two pediatric emergency departments in the metro Washington, D.C. area. After parents used the prototype website to enter information about their child’s illness, all of the children received ED evaluation and treatment. This allowed researchers to compare the computer’s assessment of risk to that of experienced healthcare professionals.