Investigating the discriminative value of Early Warning Scores in patients with respiratory disease using a retrospective cohort analysis of admissions to Nottingham University Hospitals Trust over a 2-year period.

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Investigating the discriminative value of Early Warning Scores in patients with respiratory disease using a retrospective cohort analysis of admissions to Nottingham University Hospitals Trust over a 2-year period.

BMJ Open. 2018 Jul 30;8(7):e020269

Authors: Forster S, Housley G, McKeever TM, Shaw DE

Abstract
OBJECTIVE: Early Warning Scores (EWSs) are used to monitor patients for signs of imminent deterioration. Although used in respiratory disease, EWSs have not been well studied in this population, despite the underlying cardiopulmonary pathophysiology often present. We examined the performance of two scoring systems in patients with respiratory disease.
DESIGN: Retrospective cohort analysis of vital signs observations of all patients admitted to a respiratory unit over a 2-year period. Scores were linked to outcome data to establish the performance of the National EWS (NEWS) compared results to a locally adapted EWS.
SETTING: Nottingham University Hospitals National Health Service Trust respiratory wards. Data were collected from an integrated electronic observation and task allocation system employing a local EWS, also generating mandatory referrals to clinical staff at set scoring thresholds.
OUTCOME MEASURES: Projected workload, and sensitivity and specificity of the scores in predicting mortality based on outcome within 24 hours of a score being recorded.
RESULTS: 8812 individual patient episodes occurred during the study period. Overall, mortality was 5.9%. Applying NEWS retrospectively (vs local EWS) generated an eightfold increase in mandatory escalations, but had higher sensitivity in predicting mortality at the protocol cut points.
CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights issues surrounding use of scoring systems in patients with respiratory disease. NEWS demonstrated higher sensitivity for predicting death within 24 hours, offset by reduced specificity. The consequent workload generated may compromise the ability of the clinical team to respond to patients needing immediate input. The locally adapted EWS has higher specificity but lower sensitivity. Statistical evaluation suggests this may lead to missed opportunities for intervention, however, this does not account for clinical concern independent of the scores, nor ability to respond to alerts based on workload. Further research into the role of warning scores and the impact of chronic pathophysiology is urgently needed.

PMID: 30061434 [PubMed - in process]

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