Use of a pro forma for head injuries in the accident and emergency department--the way forward.
The aim of this study was to assess the quality of documentation of head-injured patients seen in three accident and emergency (A&E) departments using a specially designed head injury pro forma. A 4-week prospective study of a single head injury pro forma was followed by a second similar study with an improved version (two head injury pro formas, one for young children and babies, the other for older children and adults). The main outcome measures were the degree of completion of the pro forma and questionnaire responses from receptionists, nurses and doctors. A total of 1260 patients had their details completed on the pro forma in both studies. Compared with standard hand written A&E notes, the degree of completion of clinical details specific to the head injury were high, eg. over 95% for symptoms. The pro forma was generally well received by A&E staff, particularly after recommended improvements were made, and the majority of staff felt it should be introduced permanently into the A&E department. Concern about its use in cases of very minor head injury and multiple injuries were raised. As well as improved documentation, the pro forma facilitates the process of audit and may have an important role to play in information technology and computers in the future.