Early warning scores use vital signs to identify patients at risk of critical illness. The current study examines the Hamilton Early Warning Score (HEWS) at emergency department (ED) triage among patients who experienced a critical event during their hospitalization. HEWS was also evaluated as a predictor of sepsis.
The study population included admissions to two hospitals over a 6-month period. Cases experienced a critical event defined by unplanned intensive care unit admission, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or death. Controls were randomly selected from the database in a 2-to-1 ratio to match cases on the burden of comorbid illness. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were used to evaluate HEWS as a predictor of the likelihood of critical deterioration and sepsis.
The sample included 845 patients, of whom 270 experienced a critical event; 89 patients were excluded because of missing vitals. An ROC analysis indicated that HEWS at ED triage had poor discriminative ability for predicting the likelihood of experiencing a critical event 0.62 (95% CI 0.58-0.66). HEWS had a fair discriminative ability for meeting criteria for sepsis 0.77 (95% CI 0.72-0.82) and good discriminative ability for predicting the occurrence of a critical event among septic patients 0.82 (95% CI 0.75-0.90).
This study indicates that HEWS at ED triage has limited utility for identifying patients at risk of experiencing a critical event. However, HEWS may allow earlier identification of septic patients. Prospective studies are needed to further delineate the utility of the HEWS to identify septic patients in the ED.