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Key Concept


ambulance ouside an emergency roomTriage is a concept that assigns a degree of urgency to determine the order or priority of treatment. It would be difficult to find a hospital emergency room that didn’t practice some form of triage. In fact, effective triage is a continual focus in emergency rooms in order to decrease patient wait times and overall length of stay as well as reduce the number of patients who might leave without being seen by medical personnel.

Emergency room triage strategies focus on quickly identifying and separating patients into different areas based on the severity of their condition. These different areas are staffed by an assortment of emergency room personnel—nurses, medical assistants, physician assistants, x-ray technicians, and physicians. It is critical that all functions work on the same level of priority to protect the time of the physicians so they can maximize their time on acute cases.

The triage concept is just as important to business processes—it is the first key concept used to increase the flow and speed of work. An effective approach to triage increases overall system capacity by ensuring the system critical activity is fully engaged and focused on the appropriate type of work. Incoming work should be quickly assessed to determine if it could be quickly resolved or handled by other resources, thereby protecting the time of the critical activity. Triage is also essential in determining the appropriate type of activity, treatment, or intervention that best fits the situation instead of treating every type of work input or customer the same.

How it Works

How do you know if you have an effective approach to triage?
  • Processes are in place to quickly and accurately prioritize incoming work.
  • Workflows are in place to manage different priority levels, capitalizing on work that can be completed quickly (one and done) vs. longer-term work or exceptions.
  • The scope and type of treatments are appropriate for the situation or person—all work is not treated the same.