Time is brain, so we must BEFAST: Improving stroke identification and triage in a rural emergency department

Publication Name

EMA - Emergency Medicine Australasia


Objective: Shoalhaven District Memorial Hospital is a rural (MM3) secondary hospital which is over an hour travel time from the nearest tertiary centre. The objective of the present study was to pilot the implementation of the BEFAST (Balance, Eyes, Face, Arms, Speech and Time) stroke screening tool at the ED, and determine whether its usage improved timely stroke detection. Methods: During initial implementation and training (October–December 2019), triage nurses consulted with senior medical officers before activating stroke calls. Data were collected for the subsequent 24 months (January 2020–2022), and retrospective records for confirmed strokes during a 24-month period prior to BEFAST implementation (October 2017–2019) were also collected. The main outcome measures were triage category, CT scan result time, discharge destination, length of stay (LOS) and Modified Rankin Score (MRS). Results: After BEFAST implementation, patients (n = 268) were three times more likely to be triaged at category 1 or 2, and door-to-CT scan time was reduced by 20.7 min on average. More patients were discharged to their usual residence and more quickly (LOS 7.9 vs 11.1 days). MRS 90 days after stroke was less, and patients were nearly twice as likely to experience an improvement in neurological symptoms. Conclusions: Patient outcomes were improved after implementation of the BEFAST stroke triage tool. More stroke patients were identified upon presentation to the ED, and in a timely fashion. For those with a stroke diagnosis, time-critical interventions can take place earlier, allowing patients to return home sooner, and with less disability.

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