ed triage

Texting on Cell Phone During ED Triage Correlated with Improved Patient Outcomes

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CLEVELAND, OH – A recent multi-center observational trial involving several EDs in Cleveland have demonstrated that texting on one’s cell phone during an initial ED triage interview results in markedly improved clinical outcomes.  The increasing ubiquity of cell phones among the population at these EDs have led some experts to claim that positive health outcomes are poised to soar among this frequently underserved cohort in subsequent years.

ed triageThe design of the study was as follows: 5000 consecutive patients aged 12-60 who presented to an ED were enrolled in this prospective observational trial.  Of these 5000, 850 of them were found to be texting on their cell phone for at least 10 seconds some time during the ED triage interview.  All patients were followed throughout their ED and hospital course, if applicable.

The results were surprising.  Of the 850 patients who texted on their cell phone, all 850 were either discharged from the ED or admitted for 24 hours or less without a remotely serious medical or surgical condition being diagnosed.  Among the 4150 controls who did not text on their cell phone, 18.4% (95% CI 14.5%-21.2%, p<0.05) ended up being admitted for more than 24 hours and 14.2% (95%CI 13.1%-15.0%, p<0.05) were diagnosed with a condition defined as “very serious or life-threatening.”

In the discussion section of the paper, the authors have a number of theories to explain this apparent correlation.

What they consider the most plausible theory is that the hand movement and cognitive function associated with texting must provide a therapeutic feedback loop to the brain resulting in a dopamine surge promoting instant healing.  Another theory is that instead of texting, these patients are actually setting up YouTube to watch an episode of Dr. Oz (which we all know has healing powers).  A further assertion is that users of their cell phones may be texting another medical provider for advice.

A final conjecture was that the phrases themselves may have healing powers.  With consent of a subgroup of patients, analysis of the text messages was undertaken which showed a certain unspecified code was being used to communicate between users.  A few examples of these utterances include lol, rotfl, omg, smh, and fml.  Further studies will be needed to investigate the possible therapeutic potential of these phrases.

This study has engendered some controversy.  One far-fetched and ludicrous claim by jealous academic know-it-alls is that there should have been a baseline comparison analysis between the texting-on-cell-phone group and the control group, as this may have led to a radical concept called, “selection bias.”  It is notable that this possibility was considered but not analyzed in the study due to the fact the study author and author of this article wasn’t really paying attention when that… um…. part was discussed in their meeting because he was… uh… busy playing Words With… Friends on his, um, cell… thingie.  Woo hoo!  Triple Word Score!

If you enjoyed this article, please check out the author’s website First World Emergency Medicine for other great articles.

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