Crisis Standard of Care
- GUIDELINE STATEMENT
The Crisis Care Guideline is an extension of the surge-capacity plan. Crisis care standards will only be executed if critical care capacity is overwhelmed despite all surge-capacity efforts.
To ensure a framework is in place when the hospital moves from contingency care to crisis care. The framework is based on saving lives and saving life years, by ensuring care access to all patients based on objective medical knowledge.
Conventional Care: Provision of care is within usual practice. For example, patients are cared for in traditional care locations with standard resources.
Contingency Care: Provision of functionally equivalent care that may incur a small risk to patients. Care provided is adapted from usual practices. For example, boarding critical care patients in post-anesthesia care areas using less traditional but appropriate resources.
Crisis Care: Disaster strategies used when demand forces choices that pose a significant risk to patients but is the best that can be offered under the circumstances. For example, cot-based care, severe staffing restrictions, or restrictions on use of certain medications or other resources.
- Triggers/Thresholds for Activation of Crisis Care
- Consider the following triggers for appropriate implementation of the Crisis Care Guidelines:
- Critically limited resource(s) and infrastructure are identified (e.g., staffing).
- Surge capacity is fully employed within health care facilities (and regionally) if capacity/space is the limited resource.
- Maximum efforts to conserve, substitute, adapt, and re-use are insufficient if supplies are the limited resource.
- Patient transfer or resource importation is not possible or will occur too late for bridging therapies (such as bag-valve ventilation or other temporizing measures) to be considered.
- Necessary resources have been requested from local, regional health officials (as applicable), and affiliated entities.
- A state of emergency has been declared, or other health powers (as applicable) have been activated.
- Regional, state, and federal resources are insufficient or cannot meet demand.
- Consider the following triggers for appropriate implementation of the Crisis Care Guidelines:
- Framework of Resource Triage Team (RTT)
- The facility has created a Resource Triage Team to determine the appropriate allocation of healthcare resources.
- The RTT will include acute care physicians, nurse(s) and administrator(s).
- The RTT will eliminate bias and discrimination when making triage decisions.
- The RTT or designee will accompany the treating physician to communicate triage decisions to patients and families.
- The RTT or designee will attend all patient and family appeals to the triage decision.
- If resources permit, palliative care clinicians, social workers, and/or chaplains are to provide emotional support to patients and families.
- The hospital will ensure a framework is in place to address appeals, when necessary. A sub-committee of the Ethics Committee titled the Special Ad-Hoc Bioethics Committee will convene as needed, for review of scarce resources during a pandemic.
- Ethical Considerations should be incorporated into decision-making regarding allocation of healthcare resources to:
1.To achieve benefit for populations of patients, doing the greatest good for the greatest number.
- To create meaningful access for all patients who are eligible for ICU services during ordinary circumstances remain eligible, and there are no exclusion criteria based on age, race, disability (including weight-related disabilities and chronic medical conditions), gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity (including national origin and language spoken), ability to pay, weight/size, socioeconomic status, insurance status, perceived self-worth, perceived quality of life, immigration status, incarceration status, homelessness, or past or future use of resources.
- To ensure that all patients receive individualized assessments by clinicians based on the best available objective medical evidence.
- To ensure that no one is denied care based on stereotypes, assessments of quality of life, or judgments about a person based on the presence or absence of disabilities or other factors.
- To diminish the impact of social inequalities that negatively impact patients’ long-term life expectancy by keeping in mind historic disparities and inequalities
- Allocation of Resource Process
- All patients requiring emergency stabilization either in the Emergency Department or on the hospital floor will receive stabilization treatment before any resource allocation decision is made. Scarce resource(s) may be provided during the stabilization process with the understanding that the resource may be withdrawn after the allocation process is performed.
- Patients will be assessed for conditions present in Table 2. Patients with conditions listed in Table 2 may not be eligible for allocation of ICU care or ventilator use.
- Treating physicians will identify all patients who require the use of scarce resources. Examples of patients who require ICU level of care or ventilator use is provided in Table 1.
- A disease severity score will be calculated for each patient requiring a scarce resource. Currently, the score that is being used is the SOFA score (Table 3) or mSOFA score (Table 4). Table 5 compares the differences between the two scores.
- The patient will then be assigned to a priority group based on his/her disease severity score. Table 6 shows the prioritization groups by SOFA or mSOFA score. The priority group assignment should be noted clearly in the patient’s chart or electronic medical record by the RTT.
- The availability of the scarce resource will determine how many eligible patients will receive (or continue to receive) the resource. Patients in group 1 will receive the resource first, followed by patients in groups 2, 3, and 4. Patients with the highest score within the priority group will receive resources before patients with a lower score in the same priority group
- Patients and/or their agent/surrogate will be notified of the decision.
Table 2: Medical Criteria supporting lack of benefit from ICU care or Ventilator Use
Requires invasive mechanical ventilation
- Refractory hypoxemia (SpO2<90% on non-rebreather mask at flow of ≥15 LPM)
- Respiratory acidosis with pH < 7.20 on arterial blood gas
- Clinical evidence of respiratory failure
- Inability to protect airway
Requires vasoactive support for hypotension or unstable rhythm
- Systolic blood pressure < 90 mmHg with clinical evidence of shock (end-organ failure) refractory to volume resuscitation
- Unstable bradyarrhythmia refractory to electrolyte replacement
- Unstable tachyarrhythmia requiring vasoactive drip or cardioversion
Requires intensive neurologic monitoring or intervention
- Acute neurologic condition (e.g. intracranial/intraventricular hemorrhage, subarachnoid bleed with unsecured aneurysm, traumatic brain injury, or ischemic stroke with mass effect or acute hydrocephalus, severe CNS infection) with Glasgow Coma Scale < 13
- Status epilepticus refractory to initial antiepileptic therapy
- Spinal cord injury at or above C5 with ASIA-A and B
Requires intensive interventions for trauma or major surgical condition
- Polytrauma within 24 hours of presentation
- Post-operative condition with significant instability (e.g., open abdomen)
Catastrophic cardiac arrest
- Out-of-hospital unwitnessed arrest
- Out-of-hospital witnessed arrest without ROSC after ≥30 mins of ACLS without shockable rhythm
- In-emergency-department or in-hospital witnessed arrest without ROSC after ≥30 mins of ACLS without shockable rhythm
- American Burn Association expected mortality ≥90%
Catastrophic trauma (general)
- Trauma Injury Severity Score predicting ≥90% mortality
- Traumatic brain injury with Glasgow Coma Score motor response ≤ 2 at presentation
Catastrophic trauma (neurologic)
- Traumatic subdural hematoma that results in >1.5cm of midline shift with loss of (near) all brainstem reflexes
- Any sized traumatic epidural hematoma that has resulted in evidence of uncal herniation and brainstem infarction with loss of brainstem reflexes
- Gunshot Wound to Head: Transtentorial - Bullet track passes through the ventricle from one hemisphere to the other
- Severe Traumatic Brain Injury with GCS 3 with fixed and dilated pupils after return of circulation with MAP> 65 or radiographic and clinical evidence of brainstem injury with fixed and dilated pupils in the absence of hydrocephalus
- Spinal Cord Injury: Atlanto-occipital dislocation with brainstem hemorrhage
Catastrophic irreversible neurologic injury
- Anoxic brain injury clearly present at time of presentation
- Catastrophic ischemic stroke at time of presentation with HIAT-2 score 8-10
- Catastrophic ischemic stroke at 24-hour re-evaluation with mortality > 90% based on nomogram below
- Ischemic stroke with left-sided (dominant) hemispheric stroke in complete MCA distribution or right-sided hemispheric stroke in complete MCA distribution with age > 80
- Brainstem infarcts that would result in locked-in syndrome
- Catastrophic status epilepticus due to one of the irreversible brain injuries listed in Table 2
- · Catastrophic status epilepticus after 72h without response to therapy will be considered a form of irreversible brain injury but not considered at time of presentation
- Intracranial hemorrhage > 100 cc in any hemisphere,
- Brainstem hemorrhage > 2 cm or cerebellar hemorrhage with loss of brainstem reflexes
- Ruptured aneurysm in patient with Hunt-Hess score of 5 whose exam cannot be explained by reversible factors (seizure, hydrocephalus, or medication)
Table 3: SOFA Score - If there is more than one value for an organ system generated during a 24-hour period, the highest value is used to calculate the SOFA score
Variable 0 1 2 3 4 PaO2/FiO2 mmHg >400 ≤400 ≤300 ≤200 ≤100 Platelets, x 103/µL
(20 – 32)
(33 – 100)
(101 – 203)
Hypotension None MABP < 70
Dop ≤5 Dop > 5,
Dop > 15,
Epi > 0.1,
Glasgow Coma Score
15 13 – 14 10 - 12 6 - 9 <6 Creatinine, mg/dL
< 1.2 (<106) 1.2-1.9
(106 – 168)
(169 - 300)
(301 – 433)
Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score SOFA Scale
Dopamine [Dop], epinephrine [Epi], norepinephrine [Norepi] doses in ug/kg/min SI units in brackets
Adapted from: Ferreira FI, Bota DP, Bross A, Melot C, Vincent JL. Serial Evaluation of the SOFA score to predict outcome in critically ill patients. JAMA 2001; 286(14): 1754-1758.
*GCS should not add points to the SOFA score when a patient cannot articulate intelligible words, even if this condition is due to a pre-existing speech disability or chronic ventilation. Clinicians should use clinical judgement to adjust SOFA scores downward where appropriate to account for chronic baseline levels of physiological functional impairment not caused by COVID-19, including for any temporary elevation of a score of score element caused by any patient disability to access a regularly used stabilizing device or treatment (such as CPAP or BiPAP unit, dialysis, or specific medications).
Table 4: The mSOFA score eliminates the need for the platelet count, replaces bilirubin measurement with physical presence or absence of jaundice or scleral icterus, and allows for the peripheral oxygen saturation to be measured instead of the PaO2.
Modified Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (MSOFA) Score
Organ System 0 1 2 3 4 Respiratory SpO2/FiO2 >400 ≤400 ≤315 ≤235 ≤150 Liver No scleral icterus or jaundice Scleral icterus or jaundice Cardiovascular, hypotension No hypotension MAP <70 mm Hg dopamine≤5 or dobutamine any dose dopamine>5
CNS, Glassglow Coma Score 15 13-14 10-12 6-9 <6 Renal, Creatinine mg/dL <1.2 1.2-1.9 2.0-3.4 3.5-4.9 >5.0
MAP=mean arterial pressure
dopamine, dobutamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine doses in micrograms per kilogram per minute
CNS=central nervous system
Comparison of the SOFA and M-SOFA Scores
Organ System SOFA score MSOFA score Respiratory PaO2/FIO2 ratio SpO2/FIO2 ratio Coagulation Platelet Count x 103/µL Not Scored Liver Biliburin level, mg/dL Scleral icterus or jaundice Cardiovascular Hypotension or vasopressors Same as SOFA score Central Nervous System (CNS) Glasglow Coma Score (CGS) Same as SOFA score Renal Creatinine mg/dl or urine output Same as SOFA score
PaO2/FIO2 ratio: partial pressure of arterial oxygen divided by the fraction of inspired oxygen
SpO2/FIO2 ratio: arterial oxygen saturation measured by a pulse oximeter divided by the fraction of inspired oxygen
Principle Specification Priority Group* 1 2 3 4 Current Overall Clinical Status Prognosis for acute survival (SOFA score, mSOFA, or other severity of illness score#) SOFA score < 6 Or mSOFA<6 SOFA score 6-8 Or mSOFA 6-8 SOFA score 9-11 Or mSOFA 9-11 SOFA score ≥12 Or mSOFA ≥12
Resolving “Ties” Between Patients with the Same Disease Severity Score
A “tie” can occur if there are not enough resources for patients who have been given the same SOFA or mSOFA score during prioritization. In the event of a tie, priority may be given to patients without severe life-limiting comorbidities. Comorbid conditions should only be considered if the condition will impact near-term survival. The following conditions are listed in the California Crisis Care Guidelines as examples of severe life-limiting conditions:
- Minimally conscious or unresponsive wakeful state from prior neurologic injury
- American College of Cardiology / American Heart Association Stage D heart failure
- World Health Organization Class 4 pulmonary hypertension
- Severe chronic lung disease with FEF1 < 20% predicted, FVC < 35% predicted
- Cirrhosis with a model for end-stage liver disease score > 20
- Metatstatic cancer with expected survival < 6 months despite treatment
Refractory hematologic malignancy (resistant or progressive despite conventional initial therapy)
If the “tie” is not resolved by consideration of severe comorbidities, a lottery (i.e. random allocation) should be used to break the tie.
Reassessment and Reallocation of Scarce Resources
After initiation and/or allocation of treatment, patients should receive a time limited trial of therapy that is determined by the natural history of the disease and the physician’s clinical interpretation of the trajectory of the patient’s clinical course. Trial duration of therapy should be defined as early as possible and adjusted as data about the particular disease state emerges. Patients receiving scarce resources, such as ICU care or mechanical ventilation, who experience significant clinical decline at the end of the trial period may have the resource withdrawn after notification of the patient and/or family. Reassessment and re-allotment may occur prior to the end of the trial period if the patient sustains a rapid and substantial decline in their condition such that their risk of mortality is significantly increased. The reassessment process should occur by the following steps:
- Patients will be periodically assessed during the course of their treatment at pre-determined times. During re-assessment, the patient’s disease severity score will be re-calculated and the patient placed in the appropriate prioritization group.
- If the patient’s prioritization score indicates removal of the scarce resource, the RTT will promptly notify the attending physician of the decision.
- The patient and/or the patient’s agent/surrogate will be notified of the decision.
- The scarce resource will be withdrawn and clinically indicated alternative forms of intervention will be provided.
Notification of decision
The Crisis Care Guidelines will be available to interested parties. After assessment or reassessments decisions are made the RTT and treating physicians will communicate to the patient’s family or designated party the outcome.
Appeals Process for RTT Decisions
If a patients’ family or clinician challenges a triage decision, the patient’s family or clinician should be able to appeal the decision of the RTT
- The appeal will need to be addressed in real time.
- For the initial triage decision (i.e., initiation of ventilation), the only permissible appeals are those based on a claim that an error was made by the RTT in the calculation of the priority score.
- The RTT will verify the accuracy of the priority score by recalculating it.
- The RTT designee or treating physician should be prepared to explain the calculation upon patient’s or family’s request.
- For the withdrawal of existing mechanical ventilation from a patient who is already receiving it, elements of this appeal process could include:
- The individuals appealing the triage decision should explain to RTT the grounds for their appeal. Appeals based on objection to the overall allocation framework may not be granted.
- The RTT should explain the basis for their triage decision.
- Appeals based on considerations other than disagreement with the allocation framework should immediately be brought to a committee that is independent of the RTT and of the patient’s care team. The Special Ad-Hoc Bioethics Committee will be convened.
- The appeals process must occur quickly enough that the appeals process does not harm patients who are in the queue for scarce critical care resources currently being used by the patient who is the subject of the appeal.
- The decision of the Special Ad-Hoc Bioethics Committee for a given hospital should be final. Periodically, the Special Ad-Hoc Bioethics Committee should retrospectively evaluate whether the review process is consistent with effective, fair, and timely application of the allocation framework.
- Triggers/Thresholds for Activation of Crisis Care
- Portions of this document was developed by Sara B. Edwards, Grace Oei, Arnold Tabuenca, and Raul Coimbra of Riverside University Health Systems medical Center. We are deeply appreciative for use of their materials.
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