Early "step-down" transfer of low-risk patients with chest pain: A controlled interventional trial

Scott Weingarten, Bruce Ermann, Roger Bolus, Mary S. Riedinger, Haya Rubin, Alec Green, Katy Karns, A. Gray Ellrodt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To determine whether providing private practitioners with triage criteria for their low-risk chest pain patients would safely enhance bed utilization efficiency in coronary and intermediate care units. Design: Prospective, controlled, interventional trial using an alternate month study design. Setting: A large teaching community hospital. Patients: Cohort of 404 low-risk patients with chest pain for whom a diagnosis of myocardial infarction has been excluded and who have not sustained complications, required interventions, or developed unstable comorbidity. Interventions: During intervention months, private practitioners caring for low-risk patients in the coronary and intermediate care units were contacted 24 hours after admission. Physicians were informed that the transfer of low-risk patients to nonmonitored beds could probably be done safely, based on the results of a pilot study. The practitioner had the option of agreeing to or deferring patient transfer. During control months, physicians were not contacted in this way. Measurements and Main Results: Use of the triage criteria by private practitioners reduced lengths of stay in the intermediate and coronary care units by 36% and 53%, respectively. Bed availability increased by 744 intermediate and 372 coronary care unit bed-days per year. Charges decreased by $2.6 million per year and profits improved by $390 000 per year. There were no significant differences in complications between control and intervention patients and in no case (95% CI, 0% to 1.6%) did the triage criteria adversely affect quality of care. Conclusions: The early transfer triage criteria may be a safe and efficacious decision aid for improving bed utilization in intermediate and coronary care units. In addition, this study shows the feasibility of and potential benefits from applying practice guidelines at a community hospital.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-289
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Internal Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 15 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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