Winter 2010: Of Note

Woman in waiting room, alone

Ivonne Wierink-vanWetten/iStockphoto

Stopping the Surge

By Mary J. Loftus

A crowded hospital waiting room is not where anyone wants to be during a flu pandemic. Sitting shoulder to shoulder with others who are coughing, sneezing, and wheezing spreads the virus, and a surge of new patients could topple an already overloaded health care system.

Even before H1N1 hit, Emory researchers and clinicians, using the most current information from the fields of infectious disease, public health, emergency medicine, and nursing, were developing a screening tool called SORT (Strategy for Off-Site Rapid Triage) that works outside the hospital setting.

“The goal of effective screening is to identify the most severely ill, while safely redirecting large numbers of symptomatic individuals away from crowded hospital and office waiting rooms without compromising their care,” says Alex Isakov, executive director of Emory’s Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response.

SORT uses a three-stage process to determine if individuals are high, intermediate, or low risk, says emergency physician Arthur Kellermann, associate dean for health policy. In October 2009, the CDC adopted a modified version of SORT and posted it on its website: www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidance/.

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