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How ED Crowding Affects Outcomes

How ED Crowding Affects Outcomes

Previous studies have sought to establish a definitive relationship between ED crowding and subsequent mortality, but these investigations often have shortcomings, such as small hospital samples and a lack of adjustment for comorbidities, primary illness diagnoses, and potential hospital-level confounders. In addition, many of these analyses restrict data to specific subgroups, such as patients with acute myocardial infarction, trauma, pneumonia, or critical illness. New Evidence on Inpatient Death In an effort to address these limitations, my colleagues and I conducted a study to assess the effect of ED crowding on patient outcomes. Our study, which was published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, looked at nearly 1 million admissions through EDs across California. Daily ambulance diversion was the measure of ED crowding. According to our results, ED crowding was associated with 5% greater odds of inpatient death. Patients who were admitted on days with high ED crowding had 0.8% longer hospital stays and 1.0% increased costs per admission. Periods of high ED crowding were associated with 300 excess inpatient deaths, 6,200 hospital days, and $17 million in costs. These findings persisted after extensively adjusting for patient demographics, comorbidities, and primary discharge diagnosis. Although other analyses have reported similar associations, our study generalizes these findings to a larger sample of hospitals and unselected admissions from the ED. ED Crowding: A Marker of Poor Quality Care Our findings support the notion that ED crowding is a marker of poor quality of care. Unfortunately, factors underlying the issue of ED crowding are likely to become worse. As Americans are living longer than ever, this has increased the volume, complexity, and acuity of...
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