Based on the well-known concept that early interventions lead to improved clinical outcomes, rapid-response teams have been gaining popularity in many countries around the world. These hospital-based teams aim to improve early identification of patients at risk of rapid clinical deterioration, and subsequently to provide specialized critical care at their bedside.

While they have been applauded for improved outcomes in conditions such as acute respiratory failure, acute cardiac failure and sepsis, these medical emergency teams are not without controversy. A recent review published in the New England Journal of Medicine highlights the fact that the only studies which have demonstrated drastically improved outcomes attributable to rapid-response teams have been unblinded, non-randomized trials. Furthermore, meta-analyses failed to demonstrate significant decreases in adverse clinical endpoints when these teams were employed. While these controversies have thus far limited their worldwide implementation, rapid-response teams aspire to a goal too fundamental to ignore and merit further study.

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PMID: 21751906