Introduction: Emergency Department (ED) crowding is a pervasive problem and is associated with adverse patient outcomes. Yet, there are no widely accepted, universal ED crowding metrics. The objective of this study is to identify ED crowding metrics with the strongest association to the risk of ED revisits within 72 hours, which is a patient-oriented adverse outcome. Methods: Crowding metrics, patient characteristics and outcomes were obtained from administrative data for all ED encounters from 2011-2014 for three adult EDs in Calgary, AB. The data were randomly divided into three partitions for cross-validation, and further divided by CTAS category 1, 2/3 and 4/5. Twenty unique ED crowding metrics were calculated and assigned to each patient seen on each calendar day or shift, to standardize the exposure. Logistic regression models were fitted with 72h ED revisit as the dependent variable, and an individual crowding metric along with a common list of confounders as independent variables. Adjusted odds ratios (OR) for the 72h return visits were obtained for each crowding metric. The strength of associations between 72h revisits and crowding metrics were compared using Akaike's Information Criterion and Akaike weights. Results: This analysis is based on 1,149,939 ED encounters. Across all CTAS groups, INPUT metrics (ED census, ED occupancy, waiting time, EMS offload delay, LWBS%) were only weakly associated with the risk of 72h re-visit. Among THROUGHPUT metrics, ED Length of Stay and MD Care Time had similar adjusted ORs for 72h ED re-visit (range 0.99-1.15). Akaike weights ranging from 0.3/1.00 to 0.4/1.00 indicate that both THROUGHPUT metrics are reasonable predictors of 72h ED re-visits. All OUTPUT metrics (boarding time, # of boarded patients, % of beds occupied by boarded patients, hospital occupancy) had statistically significant ORs for 72h ED re-visits. The median boarding time had the highest adjusted OR for 72h ED re-visit (adjusted OR 1.40, 95% CI 1.33-1.47) and highest Akaike weight (0.97/1.00) compared to all other OUTPUT metrics, indicating that median boarding time had the strongest association with 72h re-visits. Conclusion: ED THROUGHPUT and OUTPUT metrics had consistent associations with 72h ED re-visits, while INPUT metrics had little to no association with 72h re-visits. Median boarding time is the strongest predictor of 72h re-visits, indicating that this may be the most meaningful measure of ED crowding.
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