Yonsei Med J.  2021 Jul;62(7):631-639. 10.3349/ymj.2021.62.7.631.

Analysis of the Impact of the Coronavirus Disease Epidemic on the Emergency Medical System in South Korea Using the Korean Triage and Acuity Scale

  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Yonsei University Wonju College of Medicine, Wonju, Korea
  • 2Center of Biomedical Data Science, Yonsei University Wonju College of Medicine, Wonju, Korea
  • 3Department of Emergency Medicine, Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul, Korea
  • 4National Emergency Medical Center, National Medical Center, Seoul, Korea


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, which causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has spread worldwide. Global health systems, including emergency medical systems, are suffering from a lack of medical resources. Using a method for classifying patients visiting the emergency department (ED), we aimed to investigate trends in emergency medical system usage during the COVID-19 epidemic in Korea.
Materials and Methods
This retrospective observational study included patients who visited emergency medical institutions registered with the National Emergency Department Information System database from January 1, 2017 to May 31, 2020. The primary outcome was identification of changes in the distribution of patients visiting the ED according to the type of emergency medical institution. The secondary outcome was a detailed comparison of Korean Triage and Acuity Scale (KTAS) levels and patient distributions before and during the infectious disaster crisis period.
Severe patients visited regional emergency centers (RECs) and local emergency centers (LECs) more frequently during the COVID-19 period, and disposition status warranting admission to the intensive care unit or resulting in death was more common in RECs and LECs during the COVID-19 period [RECs, before COVID-19: 300686 (6.3%), during COVID-19: 33548 (8.0%) (p<0.001); LECs, before COVID-19: 373593 (3.7%), during COVID-19: 38873 (4.5%) (p<0.001)].
During the COVID-19 period, severe patients were shifted to advanced emergency medical institutions, and the KTAS better reflected severe patients. Patient distribution according to the stage of emergency medical institution improved, and validation of the KTAS triage increased more in RECs.


Coronavirus disease 2019; emergency medical system; emergency department
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