Facilitators and barriers to the implementation of patient flow improvement strategies

Kevin J. Van Dyke*, Megan McHugh, Julie Yonek, Dina Moss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Patient flow improvement strategies have been effective in reducing emergency department (ED) crowding, but little guidance is available on the implementation process. By using a qualitative research design, our objective was to identify common facilitators and barriers to the implementation of patient flow improvement strategies and successful approaches for mitigating barriers. Six hospitals participated in an 18-month Urgent Matters learning network launched in October 2008. The hospitals selected strategies to improve patient flow that could be implemented within 3 months with measurable impact. Across 6 hospitals, 8 strategies were implemented. We conducted 2 rounds of key informant interviews with improvement teams, for a total of 129 interviews. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded by using a grounded theory approach to identify common themes. Factors facilitating implementation included participation in the learning network and strategic selection of team members. Common challenges included staff resistance and entrenched organizational culture. Some of the challenges were mitigated through approaches such as staff education and department leaders' constant reinforcement. Our findings indicate that several facilitators and barriers are common to the implementation of different strategies. Leveraging facilitators and developing a strategy to address common barriers may leave hospital and ED leaders better prepared to implement patient flow improvement strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-233
Number of pages11
JournalQuality management in health care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2011


  • Crowding
  • emergency department
  • implementation
  • patient flow
  • quality improvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Care Planning


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