Study: Smartphones may help discharge ER patients faster

Emergency room physicians who received lab results via their smartphone were able to discharge chest pain patients faster, according to a new study by the University of Toronto. Photo by the American College of Emergency Physicians

May 13 (UPI) — A study by the University of Toronto has found the use of smartphones to relay lab results enables patients to be discharged faster from the emergency room than traditional methods.

Researchers found chest pain patients in the ER whose attending physicians received lab results delivered to their smartphones were discharged about 26 minutes faster than patients waiting for lab results delivered to the electronic patient record on hospital computers.

Physicians received troponin results through push alerts on their smartphones. Troponin are proteins found in the heart muscle and are measured in the blood to differentiate between unstable angina and a heart attack in people with chest pain. Elevated levels of troponin indicate a heart attack occurred.

“For patients waiting for lab results, 26 minutes is significant, even if the smartphone process did not shorten overall length of stay significantly,” Dr. Aikta Verma, of the University of Toronto, said in a press release. “For many patients, waiting for lab results that determine if they stay in the hospital or go home is the hardest part of the ER visit. Physicians who received troponin results on their smartphones made the decision to discharge patients with chest pain a median of 26 minutes faster than physicians without troponin push-alert notifications.”

The overall median interval from doctors receiving final troponin results to making decision on discharge was 79.7 minutes. For patients in the study where smartphones were used to deliver troponin results, the time from results to discharge was 68.5 minutes. For patients in the control group not using smartphones, the time was 94.3 minutes. The difference of 25.8 minutes was considered by researchers to be statistically significant.

“Our study demonstrated reduced time to discharge decision for chest pain patients by pushing troponin results to smartphones,” Verma said. “There are many other results that could also be pushed: other critical lab results, radiology reports, vital signs, etc. For now, we recommend the use of the push-alert notification system to improve flow through the emergency department for chest pain patients.”

The study was published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.


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