Recognition of Critically Ill Patients by Acute Health Care Providers: A Multicenter Observational Study

Link to article at PubMed

Crit Care Med. 2023 Mar 20. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000005839. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVES: Although the Modified Early Warning Score (MEWS) is increasingly being used in the acute care chain to recognize disease severity, its superiority compared with clinical gestalt remains unproven. Therefore, the aim of this study was to compare the accuracy of medical caregivers and MEWS in predicting the development of critical illness.

DESIGN: This was a multicenter observational prospective study.

SETTING: It was performed in a level-1 trauma center with two different sites and emergency departments (EDs) with a combined capacity of about 50.000 patients annually.

PATIENTS: It included all adult patients presented to the ED by Emergency Medical Services (EMS).


MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: For all patients, the acute caregivers were asked several standardized questions regarding clinical predicted outcome (clinical gestalt), and the MEWS was calculated. The primary outcome was the occurrence of critical illness, defined as ICU admission, serious adverse events, and mortality within 72 hours. The sensitivity, specificity, and discriminative power of both clinical gestalt and MEWS for the occurrence of critical illness were calculated as the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC). Among the total of 800 included patients, 113 patients (14.1%) suffered from critical illness. The specificity for predicting three-day critical illness for all caregivers (for EMS nurses, ED nurses, and physicians) was 93.2%; 97.3%, and 96.8%, respectively, and was significantly (p < 0.01) better than an MEWS score of 3 or higher (70.4%). The sensitivity was significantly lower for EMS and ED nurses, but not significantly different for physicians compared with MEWS. The AUROCs for prediction of 3-day critical illness by both the ED nurses (AUROC = 0.809) and the physicians (AUROC = 0.848) were significantly higher (p = 0.032 and p = 0.010, respectively) compared with MEWS (AUROC = 0.731).

CONCLUSIONS: For patients admitted to the ED by EMS, medical professionals can predict the development of critical illness within 3 days significantly better than the MEWS. Although MEWS is able to correctly predict those patients that become critically ill, its use leads to overestimation due to a substantial number of false positives.

PMID:36939246 | DOI:10.1097/CCM.0000000000005839

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