The power of early warning tools

Recognising that a patient’s condition is worsening, or not improving as expected, is vital to ensuring they receive timely and appropriate escalation of care. Early signs of deterioration include when vital signs such as heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure, exceed normal thresholds. Hospitals therefore, use early warning tools to track a patient’s vital signs and raise alarm when needed.

In Queensland an early warning tool called Q-ADDS (Queensland Adult Deterioration Detection System) is used for all adult hospital patients. Variations of this early warning tool are also used for infants, children, and maternity patients.

Scientific basis of Q-ADDS

Early warning tools such as Q-ADDS are only effective when (1) the underlying algorithm (calculation) accurately predicts deterioration, and (2) staff respond appropriately.

The Q-ADDS algorithm was tested using vital sign data from more than 220,000 patients records from a 10 year period at the University of Chicago hospital in the U.S. This study showed that the accuracy of this tool in predicting patient deterioration was superior to other commonly used paper-based early warning tools.

Validating Q-ADDS

The early warning tool has now been tested with more than 2,500 patients across 13 Queensland hospitals. The results have been similarly positive, with the study showing that Q-ADDS is very effective in detecting patient deterioration in Queensland hospitals.

Queensland Health clinicians are continuously working to improve the quality and safety of care to keep patients safe in our hospitals.

Download the Validating Q-ADDS Summary of Findings from the Central Queensland University.

Last updated: 12 July 2019