There is a consensus on the fact that there has been a significant increase in traffic to emergency rooms which has resulted in rapidly growing demand on the limited resources of emergency rooms worldwide. In 1980, there were more than 82 million visit to hospital Emergency rooms in the USA, and a large percentage were for non urgent medical conditions. One reason for this trend is that people know they can get medical attention immediately in the Emergency departments without the long wait for appointments. This has led to very high load of patients visit to emergency rooms; a pattern that holds true globally for non urgent patient visits to most pediatric emergency rooms ( Wilson FO etal ).
Another reason given for overcrowding is the increase rural to urban migration of populations and also the increase in the standard of care provided in most emergency room.
However, the resulting increase in demand for emergency medical care has not been matched by availability of resources in most healthcare systems and hence there is need for emergency room managers to adopt or develop tools and protocols to prioritize the urgency and acuity of conditions to allocate appropriate level of care. If this is not done, then there is a likelihood that very ill patients may end up waiting long hours with increased risk of morbidity and some may even die as a result of delay in life saving treatment or interventions. (Mirjam van veen and Harriette a Moll)
Triage as a term actually originates from the French verb ‘trier’, which translates ‘to sort’. It was originally used by the military as a concept to deal with large number of casualties managed by very few human and material resources. The decision is made to prioritize who had the best chance of survival, and what level of care for the survivors (LE Slay,WG Rislan )
In the last 20 years, this concept has become applicable in response to the increasing traffic to the emergency rooms and several tools have been developed to assess, prioritize and sort patients coming to the emergency department according to a determined severity of illness or injury, the level of suffering, the likely prognosis and need for intervention with available resources.
It must be clarified, that triage in itself is not a diagnostic tool but a systematically structured and methodical way of assessing the severity of patients’ conditions to determine their clinical priorities using their presenting symptoms and measurable physiological parameters and it aims to optimize the provision of emergency care efficiently to produce the best outcome for every patient by channeling patients to appropriate level and quality of care.
Hence the factors that are considered are severity of illness, level of urgency and impact of life saving intervention to reduce mortality, as well as level of care needed baring limited resources. These factors can be measured objectively using mortality rate, number of admissions to critical care unit and wards as well as patients referred to low urgency care services.
The development of different assessment scoring systems and other pediatric-specific scales were attempts to have an objective approach to the assessment of severity acuity and to help predict illness or injury outcomes in children. Hence the Pediatric Glasgow Coma Scale, the Yale Observation Scale, the Pediatric Trauma Score, the PRISM score (Pediatric Risk of Mortality score), different pain scales and various respiratory severity scoring systems were all attempts to provide common nomenclature and standardize the assessment of severity of sickness and to predict prognosis in the pediatric age group.