Implementing an obstetric triage acuity scale: interrater reliability and patient flow analysis Academic Article uri icon

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  • A 5-category Obstetric Triage Acuity Scale (OTAS) was developed with a comprehensive set of obstetrical determinants. The objectives of this study were as follows: (1) to test the interrater reliability of OTAS and (2) to determine the distribution of patient acuity and flow by OTAS level. To test the interrater reliability, 110 triage charts were used to generate vignettes and the consistency of the OTAS level assigned by 8 triage nurses was measured. OTAS performed with substantial (Kappa, 0.61 - 0.77, OTAS 1-4) and near perfect correlation (0.87, OTAS 5). To assess patient flow, the times to primary and secondary health care provider assessments and lengths of stay stratified by acuity were abstracted from the patient management system. Two-thirds of triage visits were low acuity (OTAS 4, 5). There was a decrease in length of stay (median [interquartile range], minutes) as acuity decreased from OTAS 1 (120.0 [156.0] minutes) to OTAS 3 (75.0 [120.8]). The major contributor to length of stay was time to secondary health care provider assessment and this did not change with acuity. The percentage of patients admitted to the antenatal or birthing unit decreased from 80% (OTAS 1) to 12% (OTAS 5). OTAS provides a reliable assessment of acuity and its implementation has allowed for triaging of obstetric patients based on acuity, and a more in-depth assessment of the patient flow. By standardizing assessment, OTAS allows for opportunities to improve performance and make comparisons of patient care and flow across organizations.


  • Smithson, David S
  • Twohey, Rachel
  • Rice, Timothy
  • Watts, Nancy
  • Fernandes, Christopher M
  • Gratton, Robert J

publication date

  • October 2013