When used in an emergency medical setting, the concept of triage involves a quick assessment of the three major body systems: the heart, the brain and the lungs. This initial assessment determines the severity of the patient's condition and has been established in an effort to assure that the most critical patients receive medical attention first.
The word triage is derived from the French word, “trier,” which means “to choose or to sort.” In a hospital emergency room the medical staff will triage the patients to determine the severity of their condition.
Credit for today's triage dates back to one of Napoleon's army surgeons, who devised this effective evaluation and categorization method for the wounded in battle. The assessment was performed without regard to the military ranking held by the patient.
The heart is assessed for overall stability. This can be quickly determined by observing the strength of the pulse, the color of the mucous membranes, and capillary refill time. The brain is assessed by observing the individual's level of consciousness. Medical professionals assess how well the person responds to stimuli, if the person seems aware of his surroundings and is coherent. The lung assessment is made by observing and listening to the patient's breathing. Specifically, a medical professional will determine if the person have an obstructed airway or if her breathing extremely labored. Any of these above conditions warrant immediate, emergency treatment.
According to The Pocket Book of Hospital Care for Children published by the World Health Organization, the ABCD triage method is an excellent assessment method to be used for children entering the emergency room. ABCD stands for airway, breathing, circulation/coma/convulsion and dehydration. Each letter refers to an emergency sign, or a set of signs, that signifies the need for immediate medical attention and treatment.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the triage process should take two to five minutes. Unfortunately, due to a variety of circumstances, which could include an understaffed emergency department, this is not always the case, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Once the initial triage assessment has taken place, the patient is assigned a status. The three levels of urgency include emergency status for immediate care, priority status for immediate care right behind emergencies and non-urgent status.
Borrowing the term from the healthcare setting, the concept of triage can easily apply to different business work flow situations. In the business setting, triage refers to the practice of dividing work or clients into different priority levels. By doing so, the highest priority issues are always handled first and clients aren't lost.
It lets the business person operate in a constant state of assessment and prioritizing. By building this practice into situations, it allows the person making the assessment to always operate at the highest level of efficiency.