Tag Archives: trauma center

The 30-Minute Rules: Documentation

In my last post, I reviewed timing for the 30-minute rules. When does the 30-minute timer actually start? When does it stop? Now that you understand those concepts, we can move on to actually documenting those times.

As I noted yesterday, the timer starts when the consultant is called or paged. It should be easy to record this, right? Nope. The problem is that a whole host of people can do this:

  • ED clerk
  • Trauma nurse
  • Attending surgeon
  • Resident
  • Medical student (nooooo)
  • And probably more

This makes it more difficult to find a common place to record the call time. The two possibilities are paper or electronic. The paper trauma flow sheet is usually only available to the trauma nurse. The others will either use a random piece of paper that gets lost, or doesn’t record it at all.

The other option is the electronic medical record (EMR). Everyone involved with the resuscitation probably has access to it. What’s the best option? This depends on your hospital. For paper, develop a process such that one person who has access to the trauma flow sheet (usually the nurse) is responsible for entering the call time. Otherwise, develop a specific template in your EMR so that whoever enters it does it the same way. And make sure that everyone who could possibly write the call time note knows how to properly create it.

Now, what about documenting consultant arrival? This is the most difficult part of the process. Once again, there are two alternatives: human factors or technology. Many programs try to rely on technology. Unfortunately, it is frequently flawed. The EMR timestamp when the consult is entered always  occurs after the patient was seen. Badge swipes can be forgotten. The most reliable method relies on personal responsibility. Your consultant must take a moment to check the time when he or she enters the room to examine the patient. They can then record that time when they write their note. And if they really want to be cool, they can also note the time they were called in the note.

Best practice: Have the trauma attending personally make the call to the specialist. And in that conversation, have them mention that “this is a 30–minute criterion consult.” This ensures that both your surgeon and consultant know that their presence is expected promptly. And maintain an expectation that the consultant will properly document their arrival time.

I hope you enjoyed this series. If you have any comments or questions, or want to share tips from your program, please leave a comment below or shout it out on Twitter.

The 30-Minute Rules: Response Times

In my last post, I reviewed the first component of the 30-minute rules, the actual criteria themselves. It’s not called a 30-minute response rule for no reason. There is an absolutely required time to respond that has been set at 30 minutes.  Today, I’ll look at an equally important component: the response time itself. Why do we have it, and when does the event start and stop?

So why does a rule like this exist? Is it to punish the providers who are being monitored, torturing them to get to the hospital as quickly as possible? No! As with so many of our performance improvement (PI) filters, they are designed to test many, many things. Some examples for this one are:

  • Recognition of a life or limb threatening condition by the in-hospital providers
  • Communications systems (ED clerk, pagers, phones, etc.)
  • The call schedule system
  • Clinician responsiveness and commitment (orthopedics, neurosurgery)
  • Nursing documentation
  • And more!

What is the actual time interval that must be measured? First, it does not start when the clinical condition in the criterion is recognized. If a patient has a large subdural hematoma with shift on CT scan, a radiologist must bring it to the attention of the advanced practice provider, emergency physician, or surgeon, who must then take the next step. The timer actually starts when the clinician causes the specialist to be notified. This may occur when the clerk pages or calls them, or when the clinicians do it directly.

One point of confusion: the clock does not start when the clinician responds to the page or call. What if they don’t call back for 45 minutes? Do they then have another 30 minutes to get to the hospital? No!! It starts when the first notification goes out.

So when does the clock stop? This one is easy. It occurs when the specialist who has been called gets to the patient’s bedside and begins the assessment.

One final thing about the clock? Does the clinician have to respond within the 30-minute time frame on every patient? Ideally, this would be great but it’s not realistic. There is no guidance in the Orange Book about a threshold. But if past experience is any indication, it is most likely a timely response somewhere around 80% of the time. But strive for perfection!

Tomorrow, I’ll list some ways to address the most challenging part of the 30-minute rules: actually recording the response times. And I’ll provide a best practice to help meet it.


The 30-Minute Rules: What Are They Exactly?

Yesterday, I talked about the new 30-minute rules for orthopedics and neurosurgery in general terms. Today, I’ll write about the who and what.

The rules state that a service representative “must be present and respond within 30 minutes based on institutional-specific criteria.” The response needs to be in person and not by phone. But who can it be? The Clarification Document states that the response can be met by an orthopedic surgery resident, mid-level provider, or the orthopedic surgeonHowever, if a resident or midlevel respond, they must document their communication with the orthopedic surgeon in their note.

The neurosurgery service representative is not as clearly spelled out. However, it is presumed that this person meets the same requirements as for orthopedics: resident, midlevel, or neurosurgeon.

The most important issue the trauma program must address is the selection of the actual criteria.  Here are some tips to guide you:

  • Select only a few. Three is a good number. Any more than this will tax your specialists.
  • Choose good criteria that your orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon would absolutely want to be there  in 30 minutes for. See my examples below.
  • Make sure they are very specific. Vague terms like “TBI” or “open fracture” would result in your specialist being called in way too often.
  • Ensure that the criteria do not rely on the judgement of the specialist. For example, language such as “a subdural requiring operative intervention” requires the neurosurgeon to pass judgment from home and should be avoided.
  • One exception to the previous point: futile neurotrauma care. Your neurosurgeon may review the images from outside the trauma bay and pronounce the care futile. Howeverthey should document this clearly in a note in the chart as soon as possible. And they had better not change their mind later.
  • Avoid vague language like “when requested by the trauma team.”

So what are some good criteria? Here are a few:

  • Ortho
    • Mangled extremity
    • Dysvascular limb
    • Compartment syndrome
    • Unstable pelvic fracture
    • Open pelvic fracture with external hemorrhage
  • Neurosurgery (you/they pick the exact numbers)
    • Subdural/epidural > x mm
    • Subdural/epidural with midline shift > x mm
    • Subdural/epidural with impending herniation
    • Open skull fracture with brain extrusion
    • Brain extrusion from nose/ear
    • Decrease in GCS of > x points
    • Unilateral dilated pupil with GCS < x points
    • Spinal cord injury with unstable spine

This is not a comprehensive, list, but hopefully you get the idea. Each center needs to develop their own list, with input from their specialists. Once agreed upon, these should be put into policy and approved at the trauma program operations committee.

Tomorrow: call and response.


Best of AAST #1: The Price of Being a Trauma Center

The annual meeting of the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma (AAST) begins in two weeks. Today, I will kick off a series of commentaries on many of the abstracts being presented at the meeting. All readers should be aware that I have only the abstracts to work with. As I always caution, final judgement cannot be passed until the full paper has been reviewed. And many of these will not make the jump to light speed and ever get published. So take them with a grain of salt. They may point to some promising developments, but then, maybe not.

First up is a nice analysis on the price of being a trauma center. One of my mentors, Bill Schwab, always used to say that trauma centers are always in a state of “high-tech waiting.” It costs money to keep surgeons in house, other medical and surgical specialists at the ready, and an array of services and equipment available at all hours. Any hospital administrator can tell you that trauma is expensive. But how expensive, exactly?

The trauma group at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon did a detailed analysis of the cost of readiness for trauma centers in the year 2016. The Georgia State Trauma Commission, trauma medical directors, trauma program managers, and financial officers from the Level I and II centers in Georgia determined the various categories and reported their actual costs for each. An independent auditor reviewed the data to ensure reporting consistency. Significant variances were analyzed to ensure accurate information.

Here are the factoids:

  • Costs were lumped into four major categories:  administrative, clinical medical staff, in-house OR, and education/outreach
  • Clinical medical staff was the most expensive component, representing 55% of costs at Level I centers and 65% at Level II
  • Only about $110,000 was spent annually on outreach and education at both Level I and II centers, representing a relative lack of resources for this component.
  • Total cost of being a Level I center is about $10 million per year, and $5 million per year for Level II

Here is a copy of the table with the detailed breakdown of each component:

Bottom line: Yes, it’s expensive to be a trauma center. It’s a good idea for any trauma center wannabe to perform a detailed  analysis to make sure that it makes sense financially. This is most important in areas where there are plenty of trauma centers already.  Tools have been developed to determine how many trauma centers will fit within a given geographic area (see below). Unfortunately, very few if any states use this tool to determine how many centers are reasonable. In come cities, it’s almost like the wild west, with centers popping up at random all over the place. This abstract suggests that an additional analysis is mandatory before taking the plunge into this expensive business.

Related post:

Reference: How much green does it take to be orange? Determining cost associated with trauma center readiness. Podium abstract #18, session VIII, AAST 2018.

Does Trauma Center Level Make A Difference In Treating Solid Organ Injury?

In the last two posts, I reviewed contrast anomalies in solid organs, specifically the spleen. Today, I’ll be more general and examine a recent paper that compared management and outcomes after the other major solid organ injury, liver, at Level I vs Level II trauma centers.

There are several papers that have detailed overall differences in outcomes, and specifically mortality, at Level I and II centers. Some of these show outcomes that are not quite as good at Level II centers when compared to Level I. On paper, it looks like these two levels should be very similar. Take away research and residents, and maybe a few of the more esoteric capabilities like reimplantation, and aren’t they about the same?

Well, not really. They can be, though. Level I criteria are fairly strict, and the variability between difference Level I centers is not very great. Level II criteria are a bit looser, and this allows more variability. Many Level II centers function very much like a Level I, but a few are only a bit higher functioning than a Level III with a few extra surgical specialists added in.

A paper currently in press used the Michigan Trauma Quality Improvement Program (MTQIP) data from all 29 ACS verified Level I and II centers in the state (wow!). Six years of information was collected, including the usual demographics, outcome data, and management. A total of 538 patients met inclusion criteria, and this was narrowed down to 454 so statistical comparisons of similar patients could be made for Level I vs Level II centers.

Here are the factoids:

  • Mortality was significantly higher in Level II centers compared to Level I (15% vs 9%) and patients were more likely to die in the first two days, suggesting hemorrhage as the cause
  • Patients were more likely to die in the ED at Level II centers, despite a significantly lower Injury Severity Score (ISS)
  • Pneumonia and ARDS were significantly more likely to develop in Level II center patients
  • Level II centers used angiography less often and took patients to the OR more frequently
  • Level II centers admitted fewer patients to the ICU, but ICU admission was associated with significantly decreased mortality
  • Complications were fewer at Level II centers, but they were less likely to rescue patients when they occurred

Bottom line: Level I and II centers are supposed to be roughly the same, at least on paper. But a number of studies have suggested that there are more disparities than we think. Although this paper is a retrospective review, the sheer number of significant differences and its focus on one particular injury makes it more compelling.

So what to do? Tighten up the ACS Orange Book criteria? That’s a slow and deliberate process that won’t help our patients now. The quickest and most effective solution is for all centers to adopt uniform practice guidelines so they all perform like the highly successful Level I programs in the study. There are plenty of them around. If you are not yet using one, I urge you to have a look at the example below. Tweak it to fit your center. And use your PI program to trend the outcomes!

Related post:

Reference: Variability in Management of Blunt Liver Trauma and Contribution of Level of ACS-COT Verification Status on Mortality. J Trauma, in press, Dec 1, 2017.