Implementation evaluation of a rapid response system in a regional emergency department: a dual-methods study using the behaviour change wheel

Published:December 07, 2022DOI:



      Failure to recognise and respond to clinical deterioration is a major cause of high mortality events in emergency department (ED) patients. Whilst there is substantial evidence that rapid response teams reduce hospital mortality, unplanned intensive care admissions, and cardiac arrests on in-patient settings, the use of rapid response teams in the ED is variable with poor integration of care between emergency and specialty/intensive care teams.


      The aim of this study was to evaluate uptake and impact of a rapid response system on recognising and responding to deteriorating patients in the ED and identify implementation factors and strategies to optimise future implementation success.


      A dual-methods design was used to evaluate an ED Clinical Emergency Response System (EDCERS) protocol implemented at a regional Australian ED in June 2019. A documentation audit was conducted on patients eligible for the EDCERS during the first 3 months of implementation. Quantitative data from documentation audit were used to measure uptake and impact of the protocol on escalation and response to patient deterioration. Facilitators and barriers to the EDCERS uptake were identified via key stakeholder engagement and consultation. An implementation plan was developed using the Behaviour Change Wheel for future implementation.


      The EDCERS was activated in 42 (53.1%) of 79 eligible patients. The specialty care team were more likely to respond when the EDCERS was activated than when there was no activation ([n = 40, 50.6%] v [n = 26, 32.9%], p = 0.01). Six facilitators and nine barriers to protocol uptake were identified. Twenty behaviour change techniques were selected and informed the development of a theory-informed implementation plan.


      Implementation of the EDCERS protocol resulted in high response rates from specialty and intensive care staff. However, overall uptake of the protocol by emergency staff was poor. This study highlights the importance of understanding facilitators and barriers to uptake prior to implementing a new intervention.


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