Introduction: Emergency department (ED) crowding is a contemporary problem. Solutions are multiple, but often involve a lengthy implementation process and/or substantial funding. Therefore, it is important that in the meanwhile, we aim to identify simple strategies, focussing on optimising efficiency of the available resources, which can be adopted in the ED here and now.
Methods: We made a careful analysis of inflow, throughput and outflow data of all 24,823 patients visiting the ED of a large teaching hospital in the year 2015, and looked in more detail at the 10 days with the longest average throughput times.
Results: The average throughput time during the study period was 130 minutes. The time between inflow and outflow peaks was well beyond the average daily ED throughput time, indicating that the ‘midday surge
in patient arrivals could not be handled adequately by the ED system. For the 10 days with the longest average throughput times, we found a very distinctive pattern, with a backlog of patients building up in the morning hours when maximum bed capacity had not yet been reached. This backlog had consequences during a significant part of the day.
Conclusion: Improved timing of internal efforts in the ED based on careful analysis of ED performance data should be an integral part of a system approach to prevent ED crowding.