NHAMCS validation of emergency severity index as an indicator of emergency department resource utilization

Michael B. Hocker, Charles J. Gerardo, B. Jason Theiling, John Villani, Rebecca Donohoe, Hirsh Sandesara, Alexander T. Limkakeng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Introduction: Triage systems play a vital role in emergency department (ED) operations and can determine how well a given ED serves its local population. We sought to describe ED utilization patterns for different triage levels using the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) database. Methods: We conducted a multi-year secondary analysis of the NHAMCS database from 2009-2011. National visit estimates were made using standard methods in Analytics Software and Solutions (SAS, Cary, NC). We compared patients in the mid-urgency range in regard to ED lengths of stay, hospital admission rates, and numbers of tests and procedures in comparison to lower or higher acuity levels. Results: We analyzed 100,962 emergency visits (representing 402,211,907 emergency visits nationwide). In 2011, patients classified as triage levels 1-3 had a higher number of diagnoses (5.5, 5.6 and 4.2, respectively) when compared to those classified as levels 4 and 5 (1.61 and 1.25). This group also underwent a higher number of procedures (1.0, 0.8 and 0.7, versus 0.4 and 0.4), had a higher ED length of stay (220, 280 and 237, vs. 157 and 135), and admission rates (32.2%, 32.3% and 15.5%, vs. 3.1% and 3.6%). Conclusion: Patients classified as mid-level (3) triage urgency require more resources and have higher indicators of acuity as those in triage levels 4 and 5. These patients' indicators are more similar to those classified as triage levels 1 and 2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)855-862
Number of pages8
JournalWestern Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


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