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...

Expeditors in EDs: Facilitating Patient Throughput

Patients commonly experience lulls in their treatment during the course of their visits to the emergency department (ED). Following the triage of patients, they often wait to be brought back to a room. After initial assessments, they may also need to wait during the diagnostic testing and treatment phases. Wait times can also increase as physicians review patient information and make discharge or admission decisions. During these lulls, emergency physicians may be distracted by the urgent needs of other patients and delays can occur. Expeditors: The Maître d’ of the ED A smoother, more efficient operations model in the ED may help anticipate delays in care. For example, a maître d’ controls the flow of patrons in restaurants, ensuring that guests who arrive are seated quickly, their needs are met, and the table is turned over efficiently for the next customers. With this model in mind, we created a new position at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) called an “expeditor” who acted like a maître d’ at a restaurant. The expeditor’s primary responsibility was to ensure patient care moved forward. Other responsibilities included: Communicating with and reassessing patients in the waiting room. Rooming patients as directed by the charge nurse. Assisting with ambulance arrivals. Ensuring pain was controlled and providing analgesics as directed. Placing IVs, drawing labs, and running point-of- care tests. Assisting with the discharge processes (eg, removing IVs and helping patients get dressed). Facilitating patient transport to inpatient units. In the May 2011 Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, my colleagues and I had a study published in which we analyzed the effect of using an expeditor...