Short-term mortality in older medical emergency patients can be predicted using clinical intuition: A prospective study

Noortje Zelis*, Arisja N. Mauritz, Lonne I. J. Kuijpers, Jacqueline Buijs, Peter W. de Leeuw, Patricia M. Stassen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review



Older emergency department (ED) patients are at risk for adverse outcomes, however, it is hard to predict these. We aimed to assess the discriminatory value of clinical intuition, operationalized as disease perception, self-rated health and first clinical impression, including the 30-day surprise question (SQ: "Would I be surprised if this patient died in the next 30 days" of patients, nurses and physicians. Endpoints used to evaluate the discriminatory value of clinical intuition were short-term (30-day) mortality and other adverse outcomes (intensive/medium care admission, prolonged length of hospital stay, loss of independent living or 30-day readmission).


In this prospective, multicentre cohort study, older medical patients (>= 65 years), nurses and physicians filled in scores regarding severity of illness and their concerns (i.e. disease perception and clinical impression scores) immediately after arrival of the patient in the ED. In addition, patients filled in a self-rated health score and nurses and physicians answered the SQ. Area under the curves (AUCs) of receiver operating characteristics (ROCs) were calculated.


The median age of the 602 included patients was 79 years and 86.7% were community dwelling. Within 30 days, 66 (11.0%) patients died and 263 (43.7%) patients met the composite endpoint. The severity of concern score of both nurses and physicians yielded the highest AUCs for 30-day mortality (for both 0.75; 95% CI 0.68-0.81). AUCs for the severity of illness score and SQ of nurses and physicians ranged from 0.71 to 0.74 while those for the disease perception and self-rated health of patients ranged from 0.64 to 0.69. The discriminatory value of the scores for the composite endpoint was lower (AUCs ranging from 0.60 to 0.67). We used scores that have not been previously validated which could influence their generalisability.


Clinical intuition,-disease perception, self-rated health and first clinical impression-documented at an early stage after arrival in the ED, is a useful clinical tool to predict mortality and other adverse outcomes in older ED patients. Highest discriminatory values were found for the nurses' and physicians' severity of concern score. Intuition may be helpful for the implementation of personalised medical care in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0208741
Number of pages15
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019



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