Healthcare News & Insights

Busy hospital emergency departments may have better patient outcomes

With all the recent talk about long wait times for patients who visit the emergency department (ED), you’re probably scrambling to figure out how to shorten wait times in your hospital’s busy ED.

200314225-001But you may want to hold off on that.

A bustling waiting room could actually be a positive indicator of your hospital’s quality of care. A new study suggests that the busiest hospitals may actually be providing better care to patients.

High volume, high survival rates

According to an article from HealthDay News, researchers from the University of Michigan looked at data from millions of patients of close to 3,000 hospitals around the country. What they found was surprising: People who went to hospitals with the busiest emergency departments had a 10% lower risk of dying in the hospital than those who visited less busy facilities.

Patients with more severe conditions fared even better. In fact, patients with sepsis had death rates that were 26% lower when they sought treatment from a busy ED. Those with lung failure were 22% more likely to survive. And heart attack patients also had better outcomes when they went to hospitals with more bustling EDs.

Even when accounting for differences in hospital location, technology used, and patients’ general health and income levels, these findings still stood. Researchers estimated that if all patients reviewed in the study received care at busier hospitals, it could prevent nearly 24,000 deaths each year.

Replicating the results

Although researchers offered no reasons why busier EDs had better survival rates, the correlation may be due to a simple concept: A hospital that’s used to a high volume of patients likely has the infrastructure in place to quickly and effectively handle the needs of a diverse patient mix. Hospitals that aren’t as busy may not have those resources at their disposal.

So while many hospitals are shifting their focus toward patient convenience in the emergency department, offering them the chance to schedule online appointments before visiting the ED, it may be more worthwhile to invest in other improvements instead, including bolstering staffers’ numbers so your ED can treat more patients.

Another option to consider: Tweak your processes to streamline patient flow so ED staffers can more effectively treat the patients they do see. For example, make it a goal for a nurse to evaluate and triage each patient within 30 minutes of arrival. That way, staff can quickly identify at-risk patients and give them appropriate treatment ASAP.

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