Aim: Triage, or prioritisation, is a process used to assign patients to treatment categories for clinical management and to support the allocation of staffing resources. The literature is limited regarding dietetic triage processes, and evaluation of their validity and reliability. The aims of this study were to compare the dietetic triage guidelines used in a sample of Australian hospitals; acquire demographic information describing the dietetic department and its services; and obtain feedback from dietetic managers on the benefits/disadvantages of their triage guidelines.
Methods: A questionnaire was developed to elicit demographic data and qualitative comments from a convenience sample of two hospitals in each Australian state and territory. Data collection occurred electronically and results were analysed qualitatively.
Results: Ten responses were received (62.5% response rate). The number of inpatient beds at each hospital ranged from 180 to 980. Dietetic staffing ranged from 3.3 to 27.25 equivalent full-time positions. All participating hospitals had triage guidelines in use with prioritisation categories similar for inpatients but not outpatients. Validity and inter-rater reliability were poorly evaluated. Strengths and weaknesses identified by dietetic managers were consistent with those reported in other disciplines.
Conclusions: Both consensus and lack of consistency within current dietetic triage practices were highlighted in this exploratory study. The lack of evaluation of validity and reliability shows a limited evidence base in this area of practice and these areas need to be addressed. Consideration should also be given to changes in priority and focus of dietetic practice which will impact on triage categories.