Colorado Hospitals Prepared with Triage Guidelines In Case they Become Overwhelmed

Apr 10, 2020

Making life-or-death decisions for others is not a task to be taken lightly. But, Colorado’s state crisis plans include the assembly of triage teams in the case that hospitals become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

A flowchart defining how patients are scored during crisis standards of care.
Credit Colorado Department of Health and Environment

The Governor’s Expert Emergency Epidemic Response Committee convened virtually this week to review the state’s crisis plans, which were signed by former Governor John Hickenlooper in 2018. The standards were written following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and they include guidelines for triage.

A hospital would implement crisis standards of care if it saw extreme shortages of medical resources—like ventilators, hospital beds, or medical personnel.

In the case of triage implementation, each patient would be assigned a score that accounts for factors like health upon arrival, age, underlying medical conditions, and whether he or she is a first responder or health care worker. If two patients’ scores are tied, additional factors are considered, the last of which is—a lottery.

The plans ask hospitals to form triage teams to implement the new standards and these should consist of individuals who are not directly involved with patient care, in order to prevent bias.

The crisis plans could be activated at the state level, upon dual orders from Governor Jared Polis AND Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eric France, although individual hospitals can choose to implement them earlier.

The state is, of course, hoping to avoid the need for this system. But in dire times, a system is exactly what’s needed.