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Ameliorating the emergency department workflow by involving the observation unit: effects on crowding

Primiano Iannone


Crowding adversely affects the performance of emergency departments (EDs) by worsening efficiency, timeliness of care, clinical outcomes and patients’ satisfaction. We describe in this study our attempt at improving crowding by modifying the roles and workflow of the ED physicians. The observation unit physician was given the additional duty of prioritizing admissions and managing unclear, complex cases, which were previously under the responsibility of front line emergency physicians. We analyzed two corresponding periods, both before the intervention (9897 ED attendances) in 2012 and after the intervention (10,297 attendances) in 2013. Most of the crowding indices improved significantly, including timeliness of triage, of first medical contact, access to resus area, and overall length of stay in ED. Also, emergency hospital admissions, average specialist consultations and imaging studies per patient decreased significantly. The observation unit workload increased. There was no significant excess of adverse events.


Emergency department; Workflow; Crowding; Observation unit

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Submitted: 2015-01-14 22:53:48
Published: 2015-06-26 00:00:00
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