Mobile Decision Support Tool for Emergency Departments and Mass Casualty Incidents (EDIT): Initial Study

Document Type



Background: Chemical exposures pose a significant threat to life. A rapid assessment by first responders and emergency nurses is required to reduce death and disability. Currently, no informatics tools exist to process victims of chemical exposures efficiently. The surge of patients into a hospital emergency department during a mass casualty incident creates additional stress on an already overburdened system, potentially placing patients at risk and challenging staff to process patients for appropriate care and treatment efficacy. Traditional emergency department triage models are oversimplified during highly stressed mass casualty incident scenarios in which there is little margin for error. Emerging mobile technology could alleviate the burden placed on nurses by allowing the freedom to move about the emergency department and stay connected to a decision support system.

Objective: This study aims to present and evaluate a new mobile tool for assisting emergency department personnel in patient management and triage during a chemical mass casualty incident.

Methods: Over 500 volunteer nurses, students, and first responders were recruited for a study involving a simulated chemical mass casualty incident. During the exercise, a mobile application was used to collect patient data through a kiosk system. Nurses also received tablets where they could review patient information and choose recommendations from a decision support system. Data collected was analyzed on the efficiency of the app to obtain patient data and on nurse agreement with the decision support system.

Results: Of the 296 participants, 96.3% (288/296) of the patients completed the kiosk system with an average time of 3 minutes, 22 seconds. Average time to complete the entire triage process was 5 minutes, 34 seconds. Analysis of the data also showed strong agreement among nurses regarding the app’s decision support system. Overall, nurses agreed with the system 91.6% (262/286) of the time when it came to choose an exposure level and 84.3% (241/286) of the time when selecting an action.

Conclusions: The app reliably demonstrated the ability to collect patient data through a self-service kiosk system thus reducing the burden on hospital resources. Also, the mobile technology allowed nurses the freedom to triage patients on the go while staying connected to a decision support system in which they felt would give reliable recommendations.