Emergency department (ED) crowding has been and continues to be a national concern. ED crowding is defined as a situation in which the identified need for emergency services outstrips available resources in the ED. Crowding is associated with higher morbidity and mortality, delayed pain control, delayed time to administration of antibiotics, increased medical errors, and less-than-optimal health care. ED crowding impedes a hospital’s ability to achieve national quality and patient safety goals, diminishes the effectiveness of the health care safety net, and limits the capacity of hospitals to respond to a disaster and/or sudden surge in disease. Both children and adults seeking care in emergency settings are placed at risk. Crowding negatively influences the experience for patients, families, and providers, and can impact employee turnover and well-being. No single factor is implicated in creating the issue of crowding, but elements that influence crowding can be divided into those that affect input (prehospital and outpatient care), throughput (ED), and output (hospital and outpatient care). The degree of ED crowding is difficult to quantify but has been linked to markers such as hours on ambulance diversion, hours of inpatient boarding in the emergency setting, increasing wait times, and patients who leave without being seen. A number of organizations, including the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Emergency Nurses Association, and the National Quality Forum, have convened to better define emergency metrics and definitions that help provide data for benchmarks for patient throughput performance. The Joint Commission has acknowledged that patient safety is tied to patient throughput and has developed guidance for hospitals to ensure that hospital leadership engages in the process of safe egress of the patient out of the ED and, most recently, to address efficient disposition of patients with mental health emergencies. It is important that the American Academy of Pediatrics acknowledges the potential impact on access to optimal emergency care for children in the face of ED crowding and helps guide health policy decision-makers toward effective solutions that promote the medical home and timely access to emergency care.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health