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Overcrowding in the emergency department (ED) is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Studies have shown that consultation to decision time, defined as the time when a consultation has been accepted by a specialty service to the time when disposition decision is made, is one important contributor to the overall length of stay in the ED.
The primary objective of this review is to evaluate the impact of workflow interventions on consultation to decision time and ED length of stay in patients referred to consultant services in teaching centres, and to identify barriers to reducing consultation to decision time.
This systematic review was performed in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines. An electronic search was conducted to identify relevant studies from MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Central, and CINAHL databases. Study screening, data extraction, and quality assessment were carried out by two independent reviewers.
A total of nine full text articles were included in the review. All studies reported a decrease in consultation to decision time post intervention, and two studies reported cost savings. Interventions studied included short messaging service (SMS) messaging, education with audit and feedback, standardization of the admission process, implementation of institutional guideline, modification of the consultation process, and staffing schedules. Overall study quality was fair to poor.
The limited evidence suggests that audit and feedback in the form of SMS messaging, direct consultation to senior physicians, and standardization of the admission process may be the most effective and feasible interventions. Additional high-quality studies are required to explore sustainable interventions aimed at reducing consultation to decision time.
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