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August 14, 1996

Triage of Ambulatory Patients

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Emergency Medicine, the Department of Medicine, Northwestern University Medical School and the Emergency Department, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, Ill. Dr Fontanarosa is also Senior Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 1996;276(6):493-494. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540060069040

The word triage is derived from the French verb trier, meaning to sort, sift, or cull. One of the original uses was applied to the sorting of beans, such as coffee, by type and size.1 The first application of the concept in medicine was on the military battlefield, where triage involved the rapid determination of priority for use of limited medical resources. Injured soldiers were sorted as to those who would require immediate treatment (and likely return to battle), those who could wait for treatment, and those for whom treatment would be futile.2 Today, the triage process has assumed a central role in the initial evaluation and classification of patients seeking emergency treatment and also has become increasingly used in the managed care setting for determining access and granting authorization for acute care.

See also p 460.

In the emergency department (ED), identification of patients who require treatment