Original Research

Clinical Decision-Making: Observing the Smartphone User An Observational Study in Predicting Acute Surgical Patients’ Suitability for Discharge


INTRODUCTION: An accurate and rapid assessment of an acutely unwell patient’s clinical status is paramount for the physician. There is an increasing trend to rely on investigations and results to inform a clinician of a patient’s clinical status, with the subtleties of clinical observation often ignored. The aim of this study was to determine if a patient’s use of a smartphone during the initial clinical assessment by a surgical consultant could be used as a surrogate marker for patient well-being, represented as their suitability for same-day discharge.

METHODS: This was a prospective observational study performed over 2 periods at a tertiary hospital in South Australia. All patients admitted by junior surgical doctors from the emergency department to the acute surgical unit were eligible for inclusion. Upon consultant review, their status as a smartphone user was recorded in addition to their duration of hospital stay and basic demographic data. All patients and all but 1 of the consultants were blinded to the trial.

RESULTS: Two hundred and twenty-one patients were eligible for inclusion. Of these patients, 11.3% were observed to be using a smartphone and 23.5% of patients were discharged home on day 1. Those who were observed to be using a smartphone were 5.29 times more likely to be discharged home on day 1 and were less likely to be subsequently readmitted.

CONCLUSIONS: The addition of the smartphone sign to a surgeon’s clinical acumen can provide yet another tool in aiding the decision for suitability for discharge.

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