Overcrowding and Its Association With Patient Outcomes in a Median-Low Volume Emergency Department

J. Laureano Phillips, Bradford E. Jackson, Elizabeth L. Fagan, Steven E. Arze, Brenton Major, Nestor R. Zenarosa, Hao Wang


Background: Crowding occurs commonly in high volume emergency departments (ED) and has been associated with negative patient care outcomes. We aim to assess ED crowding in a median-low volume setting and evaluate associations with patient care outcomes.

Methods: This was a prospective single-center study from November 14, 2016 until December 14, 2016. ED crowding was measured every 2 h by three different estimation tools: National Emergency Department Overcrowding Score (NEDOCS); Community Emergency Department Overcrowding Score (CEDOCS); and Severely-overcrowding Overcrowding and Not-overcrowding Estimation Tool (SONET) categorized under six different levels of crowding (not busy, busy, extremely busy, overcrowded, severely overcrowded, and dangerously overcrowded). Crowding scores were assigned to each patient upon ED arrival. We evaluated the distributions of crowding and patient ED length of stay (ED LOS) across estimation tools. Accelerated failure time models were utilized to estimate time ratios and their corresponding 95% confidence intervals comparing median LOS across levels of crowding within each estimation tool.

Results: This study comprised 2,557 patients whose median ED LOS was 150 min. Approximately 2% of patients arrived during 2 h time intervals deemed overcrowded regardless of the crowding tool used. Median ED LOS increased with the increased level of ED crowding and prolonged median ED LOS (> 150 min) occurred at ED of extremely busy status. Time ratios ranged from 1.09 to 1.48 for NEDOCS, 1.25 - 1.56 for CEDOCS, and 1.26 - 1.72 for SONET.

Conclusion: Overcrowding rarely occurred in study ED with median-low annual volume and might not be a valuable marker for ED crowding report. Though similar patterns of prolonged ED LOS occurred with increased levels of ED crowding, it seems crowding alerts should be initiated during extremely busy status in this ED setting.

J Clin Med Res. 2017;9(11):911-916
doi: https://doi.org/10.14740/jocmr3165w


Emergency department; Crowding; Length of stay

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