Objectives Emergency department (ED) crowding is an increasing problem associated with adverse patient outcomes. ED expansion is one method advocated to reduce ED crowding. The objective of this analysis was to determine the effect of ED expansion on measures of ED crowding. Methods This was a retrospective study using administrative data from two 11-month periods before and after the expansion of an ED from 33 to 53 adult beds in an academic medical center. ED volume, staffing, and hospital admission and occupancy data were obtained either from the electronic health record (EHR) or from administrative records. The primary outcome was the rate of patients who left without being treated (LWBT), and the secondary outcome was total ED boarding time for admitted patients. A multivariable robust linear regression model was used to determine whether ED expansion was associated with the outcome measures. Results The mean (±SD) daily adult volume was 128 (±14) patients before expansion and 145 (±17) patients after. The percentage of patients who LWBT was unchanged: 9.0% before expansion versus 8.3% after expansion (difference = 0.6%, 95% confidence interval [CI] = -0.16% to 1.4%). Total ED boarding time increased from 160 to 180 hours/day (difference = 20 hours, 95% CI = 8 to 32 hours). After daily ED volume, low-acuity area volume, daily wait time, daily boarding hours, and nurse staffing were adjusted for, the percentage of patients who LWBT was not independently associated with ED expansion (p = 0.053). After ED admissions, ED intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, elective surgical admissions, hospital occupancy rate, ICU occupancy rate, and number of operational ICU beds were adjusted for, the increase in ED boarding hours was independently associated with the ED expansion (p = 0.005). Conclusions An increase in ED bed capacity was associated with no significant change in the percentage of patients who LWBT, but had an unintended consequence of an increase in ED boarding hours. ED expansion alone does not appear to be an adequate solution to ED crowding.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Emergency Medicine