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עמוד בית
Fri, 19.07.24

Original Articles

IMAJ | volume

Journal 9, September 2005
pages: 578-582

Acute Respiratory Infections: Can a Non-Physician Practitioner Triage and Treat Patients by Using an Algorithm? Experience in a Military Primary Care Clinic

    Summary

    Background: Acute respiratory viral infections are minor self-limited diseases. Studies have shown that patients with ARVI[1] can be treated as effectively by non-physician practitioners as by physicians.

    Objectives: To examine whether a military medic, using a structured questionnaire and an algorithm, can appropriately triage patients to receive over-the-counter medications and refer more complicated cases to a physician.

    Methods: The study group comprised 190 consecutive soldiers who presented to a military primary care clinic with symptoms of ARVI. Using a questionnaire, a medic recorded the patient's history and measured oral temperature, pulse rate and blood pressure. All patients were referred to a doctor. Physicians were “blind” to the medic’s anamnesis and to the algorithm diagnosis. We compared the medic’s anamnesis and therapeutic decisions to those of the doctors.

    Results: Patients were young (21.1 ± 3.7 years) and generally healthy (93% without background illness). They usually had a minor disease (64% without fever), which was mostly diagnosed as viral ARVI (83% of cases). Ninety-nine percent were also examined by a physician. According to the patients' data, the medics showed high overall agreement with the doctors (83–97.9%). The proposed algorithm could have saved 37% of referrals to physicians, with a sensitivity of 95.2%. Had the medics been allowed to examine the pharynx for an exudate, the sensitivity might have been 97.6%.

    Conclusions: Medics, equipped with a questionnaire and algorithm but without special training and without performing a physical examination, can appropriately triage patients and thereby reduce the number of referrals to physicians.

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    [1] ARVI = acute respiratory viral infection

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