Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Triage Scores among Pediatric Emergency Department Fever Patients

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Abstract

Objectives: Emergency department (ED) triage scores are assigned to patients in a short period based on assessment of need for lifesaving measures, risk and pain levels, resource needs, and vital signs. Racial/ethnic disparities have been found across a number of outcomes but are not consistent across all studies. This study examines pediatric ED cases reporting fever, a commonly reported triage symptom, to explore racial/ethnic and age disparities in triage score assignment. Methods: This study uses the 2009–2015 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, an annual national sample of ED visits in the United States. Pediatric cases where fever is the sole reported reason for visit are analyzed for racial/ethnic disparities, controlling for sex, age, insurance status, body temperature, region, and hospital type. Results: Among all pediatric fever cases, temperature is the sole significant predictor of triage scores. However, non-Hispanic (NH) black pediatric patients older than 1 year have approximately 22% greater risk of being given a less urgent triage score relative to NH white patients. Conclusions: Findings suggest racial disparities in the triage of NH black pediatric patients older than 1 year for fever. Although fever is a single and often non–life-threatening condition, especially after infancy, findings of racial disparities in triage scores suggests a need for further evaluation of the assignment of patient urgency in emergency medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1457-E1461
JournalPediatric Emergency Care
Volume37
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

Keywords

  • Pediatric fever
  • Racial/ethnic disparities
  • Triage

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