North Carolina medical journal;
An integrated nonprofit health care system with 13 North Carolina medical centers conducted a time-pressured quality improvement simulation of its plan to implement the "North Carolina Protocol for Allocating Scarce Inpatient Critical Care Resources in a Pandemic" attendant to pandemic scenario planning. Simulation objectives included assessing the plan in terms of a) efficiency and effectiveness; b) comorbidity scoring validity; c) impact by race/ethnicity, gender, age, and payer status; and d) simulation participant impressions of potential impact on clinicians.
The simulation scenario involved scoring 14 patients with the constraint that only 10 could be afforded critical care resources. Also included were independent scoring validation by four clinicians, structured debriefs with simulation participants and observers, and tracking patient outcomes for 30 days.
Triage scoring was identical among four triage teams. Lack of concordance in clinician comorbidity scoring did not alter patient prioritization for withdrawal of treatment in this small cohort. Protocol scoring was not correlated with resource utilization or near-term mortality.
The simulation sample was small and selected when COVID-19 census was temporarily waning. No protocol for pediatric patients was tested.
The simulation yielded resource allocation concordance using comorbidity scoring by attending physicians, which significantly accelerated triage team decision-making and did not result in notable disparities by race/ethnicity, gender, or advanced age. Qualitative findings surfaced tensions in balancing de-identified data with individualized assessment and in trusting the clinical judgments of other physicians. Additional research is needed to validate the protocol's predictive value related to patient outcomes.