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Evaluating the impact of clinical decision tools in pediatric acute gastroenteritis: a population-based cohort study


Objective — Acute gastroenteritis (AGE) is a leading cause of pediatric emergency department (ED) visits. Despite evidence-based guidelines, variation in adherence exists. Clinical decision tools can enhance evidence-based care, but little is known about their use and effectiveness in pediatric AGE. This study sought to determine if the following tools: a)pathways/order sets; b)medical directives for oral rehydration therapy (ORT) or ondansetron; and c)printed discharge instructions are associated with AGE admission and ED revisits.

Methods — Retrospective population-based cohort study of all children 3 months-18 years with an AGE ED visit in Ontario, Canada from 2008-2010, using linked survey and health administrative databases. Logistic regression models associating clinical decision tools with hospitalizations and revisits controlling for hospital and patient characteristics were employed.

Results — Of the 57,921 patient visits during the study period, there were 2,401 hospitalizations (4.2%). 55,520 patients were discharged from the ED, with 2,378 (4.3%) experiencing a 72-hour return visit. In adjusted models, none of the tools were significantly associated with admission. Medical directive for ORT was associated with lower return visit rates [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 0.86, 95% CI 0.79-0.94] and printed discharge instructions with higher return visits (aOR 1.33, 95%CI 1.08-1.65); pathways/order sets and medical directives for ondansetron had no association.

Conclusions — Admissions in children with AGE are not associated with the presence of clinical decision tools. While ORT medical directives are associated with lower ED revisits, printed discharge instructions have the opposite effect. The simple presence/absence of decision support tools does not guarantee improved clinical outcomes.



Bahm A, Freedman SB, Guan J, Guttmann A. Acad Emerg Med. 2016; 23(5):599-609. Epub 2016 Jan 29.

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