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Evaluating the construct of triage acuity against a set of reference vignettes developed via modified Delphi method
  1. Michèle Twomey1,
  2. Lee A Wallis1,
  3. Jonathan E Myers2
  1. 1Division of Emergency Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  2. 2Occupational and Environmental Health Research Unit, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Michèle Twomey, Division of Emergency Medicine, University of Cape Town, 7 Church Road, Tokai, Cape Town 7945, South Africa; micheletwomey{at}


Objective To evaluate the construct of triage acuity as measured by the South African Triage Scale (SATS) against a set of reference vignettes.

Methods A modified Delphi method was used to develop a set of reference vignettes. Delphi participants completed a 2-round consensus-building process, and independently assigned triage acuity ratings to 100 written vignettes unaware of the ratings given by others. Triage acuity ratings were summarised for all vignettes, and only those that reached 80% consensus during round 2 were included in the reference set. Triage ratings for the reference vignettes given by two independent experts using the SATS were compared with the ratings given by the international Delphi panel. Measures of sensitivity, specificity, associated percentages for over-triage/under-triage were used to evaluate the construct of triage acuity (as measured by the SATS) by examining the association between the ratings by the two experts and the international panel.

Results On completion of the Delphi process, 42 of the 100 vignettes reached 80% consensus on their acuity rating and made up the reference set. On average, over all acuity levels, sensitivity was 74% (CI 64% to 82%), specificity 92% (CI 87% to 94%), under-triage occurred 14% (CI 8% to 23%) and over-triage 12% (CI 8% to 23%) of the time.

Conclusions The results of this study provide an alternative to evaluating triage scales against the construct of acuity as measured with the SATS. This method of using 80% consensus vignettes may, however, systematically bias the validity estimate towards better performance.

  • triage
  • emergency department
  • systems
  • methods

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