'Eyeballing' patients in ED better than triage

Study shows emergency triage systems to determine sickest patients may need a rethink

The eyes have it when determining which patients are in most need of urgent medical attention, a study shows.

The research looked at whether simply ‘eyeballing’ a patient — having a quick look and asking what their main complaint is — was more effective at predicting which ED patients were most at risk of death than the usual triage systems that are based on algorithms.

Surprising results show that the eyeball method was a better discriminator for 48-hour and 30-day mortality, even when carried out by a phlebotomist or medical student, than the algorithm.

Even more concerning was the result that there was little agreement between the eyeball method and the algorithm over which patients needed to be seen most urgently.

The Danish study looked at the triage decisions made on almost 6390 patients who presented to an emergency department over three months using the