Optimizing Critical Care Documentation in a Pediatric Emergency Department.

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DOI: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000002446


OBJECTIVE: Emergency department (ED) physicians frequently provide critical care (CC) but document inconsistently. Variability in documentation can result in underbilling and is inconsistent with financial stewardship. We used admissions to the intensive care unit (ICU) as a proxy for CC provision. At baseline, CC notes were correctly documented for 20% of eligible visits, with potential missed charges of $1.8 million per year.Our objective was to increase CC note placement for eligible patients from 20% to 60% over 2 years. Additionally, we measured CC notes and the number of ICU admissions per 1000 ED visits, and change in facility fees.

METHODS: We performed this project at a midwestern quaternary children's hospital with 2 EDs (combined volume 120,000 visits/year). We surveyed the ED physicians to inform our interventions. We used maintenance of certification points and financial incentives for quality improvement work to obtain buy-in. We used serial interventions with plan-do-study-act cycles: (1) CC note simplification, (2) education, (3) follow-up surveys, (4) additional location for CC note, and (5) timely reminders. We reviewed sample charts and used χ2 test and control charts for analysis.

RESULTS: Critical care note placement for ICU admissions increased from 20% to 60% in 8 months, and further to greater than 75%. The CC notes increased from 4 to 16 per 1000 ED visits. Intensive care unit admissions increased but remained appropriate. The billed facility fee for CC increased by 263%.

CONCLUSIONS: This project resulted in significant and sustained improvements in CC note completion. We believe providing education, simplifying the documentation process, automating reminders, and incentivizing optimal documentation were vital to success.

Journal Title

Pediatric emergency care





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MeSH Keywords

Child; Critical Care; Documentation; Emergency Service, Hospital; Hospitals, Pediatric; Humans; Intensive Care Units


Critical Care; Documentation; Hospital Emergency Service; Pediatric Hospitals; Intensive Care Units

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