Healthcare system flow resulting in emergency departments (EDs) crowding is a quality and access problem. This case study examines an overcrowded academic health center ED with increasing patient volumes and limited physical space for expansion. ED capacity and efficiency improved via engineering principles application, addressing patient and staffing flows, and reinventing the delivery model. Using operational data and staff input, patient and staff flow models were created, identifying bottlenecks (points of inefficiency). A new flow model of emergency care delivery, physician-directed queuing, was developed. Expanding upon physicians in triage, providers passively evaluate all patients upon arrival, actively manage patients requiring fewer resources, and direct patients requiring complex resources to further evaluation in ED areas. Sustained over time, ED efficiency improved as measured by near elimination of ''left without being seen'' patients and waiting times with improvement in door to doctor, patient satisfaction, and total length of stay. All improvements were in the setting on increased patient volume and no increase in physician staffing. Our experience suggests that practical application of healthcare delivery science can be used to improve ED efficiency.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine