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Emergency departments (ED) serve as a contact point for critically ill patients. According to experience, a fraction of patients visiting ED present with palliative symptoms and require palliative care; however, the prevalence of these patients has not been determined in Austria so far.
In the ED of a tertiary care medical centre in Carinthia all adult patients presenting between 8 January 2018 and 17 January 2018 were classified on arrival with the Manchester triage system (MTS) and were afterwards assessed with a validated 2‑tier screening tool for palliative care. Patient records were screened in April 2018 to find out whether they received palliative care.
In total 1277 patients visited the ED during the investigation period. Of these patients 1096 were screened and 145 of these patients (13.2%) showed palliative symptoms and needed a goal-oriented therapy. Of these 145 patients 10.9% were assessed by MTS as emergency, 2.7% as very urgent, 34.7% as urgent, 51% as normal, and 0.7% as not urgent. Only 8 (5.5%) of the patients with palliative medical symptoms actually received palliative care consultation.
More than 1 in 10 patients attending an ED suffered from palliative symptoms. Hence it is to be expected that healthcare providers in an ED in Austria will frequently encounter patients with palliative symptoms in emergency admissions. Therefore, it is necessary to develop suitable structures to provide these patients with the best possible care.