Comparing physicians and experienced advanced practice practitioners on the interpretation of electrocardiograms in the emergency department

Published:January 27, 2020DOI:



      Many patients present to emergency departments (ED) in U.S. for evaluation of acute coronary syndrome, and a rapid electrocardiogram (ECG) and interpretation are imperative for initial triage. A growing number of advanced practice practitioners (APP) (e.g. physician assistants, nurse practitioners) are assisting patient care in the ED.


      This study aims to compare the interpretation of ECGs by experienced APPs, each having 10 or more years of experience, with resident physicians and attending physicians.

      Patients and methods

      99 ED providers were stratified into attendings, residents at varying levels, and APPs were tested to interpret 36 ECGs from a database of ECGs initially interpreted to be ST elevation myocardial infarctions, of which 24 were determined to have a culprit lesion by coronary intervention.


      Attending physicians were the most sensitive (0.86, 95% CI of 0.80 to 0.92) and specific (0.69, 95% Cl of 0.60 to 0.79) at interpreting ECGs, but APPs and physicians in their first year of practice out of residency were almost equally as sensitive [(0.82, 95% CI of 0.76 to 0.88) and (0.82, 95% CI of 0.76 to 0.88)] and specific [(0.62, 95% cl of 0.52 to 0.73) and (0.65, 95% Cl of 0.56 to 0.75)].


      This study suggests the possibility of changing ED workflow where experienced APPs can be responsible for initial screening of an ECG, thus allowing fewer interruptions for ED physicians.


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