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An analysis of computer-assisted pre-screening prior to elective surgery

Department of Acute Care Medicine, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Summary

In order to assess the potential utility of guided patient self-assessment as an early preoperative triage tool, a computer-assisted questionnaire delivered by a non-clinician via telephone was 1) compared to face-to-face interview and examination by anaesthetists in outpatient clinics and 2) evaluated as a mechanism to stream patients to day of surgery assessment.
In total, 514 patients scheduled for elective surgery in two tertiary public hospitals were assessed initially by telephone and then in an outpatient clinic. Both forms of assessment were marked by panels of specialist anaesthetists, who also provided an opinion on which patients would have been suitable to bypass preoperative anaesthetic outpatient assessment based upon information provided by the telephone interview.
Overall, the quality of assessment provided by non-clinician telephone interview was comparable to face-to-face interview by anaesthetists, although more complex issues required face-to-face assessment. Panel review considered that 398 patients (60%) would not have required evaluation by an anaesthetist until the day of surgery, thus avoiding the need to separately attend a preoperative outpatient clinic. The sensitivity of telephone interview provided information to correctly classify patients as suitable for day of surgery evaluation was 98% (95% confidence interval 96 to 99%) with a specificity of 97% (95% confidence interval 92 to 98%).
This study demonstrates that remote computer-assisted assessment can produce quality patient health information and enable early patient work-up and triage with the potential to reduce costs through more efficient use of resources.

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