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Emergency department (ED) access block, the inability to provide timely care for high acuity patients, is the leading safety concern in First World EDs. The main cause of ED access block is hospital access block with prolonged boarding of inpatients in emergency stretchers. Cumulative emergency access gap, the product of the number of arriving high acuity patients and their average delay to reach a care space, is a novel access measure that provides a facility-level estimate of total emergency care delays. Many health leaders believe these delays are too large to be solved without substantial increases in hospital capacity. Our objective was to quantify cumulative emergency access blocks (the problem) as a fraction of inpatient capacity (the potential solution) at a large sample of Canadian hospitals.
In this cross-sectional study, we collated 2015 administrative data from 25 Canadian hospitals summarizing patient inflow and delays to ED care space. Cumulative access gap for high acuity patients was calculated by multiplying the number of Canadian Triage Acuity Scale (CTAS) 1-3 patients by their average delay to reach a care space. We compared cumulative ED access gap to available inpatient bed hours to estimate fractional access gap.
Study sites included 16 tertiary and 9 community EDs in 12 cities, representing 1.79 million patient visits. Median ED census (interquartile range) was 66,300 visits per year (58,700-80,600). High acuity patients accounted for 70.7% of visits (60.9%-79.0%). The mean (SD) cumulative ED access gap was 46,000 stretcher hours per site per year (± 19,900), which was 1.14% (± 0.45%) of inpatient capacity.
ED access gaps are large and jeopardize care for high acuity patients, but they are small relative to hospital operating capacity. If access block were viewed as a “whole hospital” problem, capacity or efficiency improvements in the range of 1% to 3% could profoundly mitigate emergency care delays.
Fee-for-service payment may motivate physicians to see more patients and achieve higher productivity. In 2015, emergency physicians at one Vancouver hospital switched to fee-for-service payment, while those at a sister hospital remained on contract, creating a natural experiment where the compensation method changed, but other factors remained constant. Our hypothesis was that fee-for-service payment would increase physician efficiency and reduce patient wait times.
This interrupted time series with concurrent control analysed emergency department (ED) performance during a 42-week period, encompassing the intervention (fee for service). Data were aggregated by week and plotted in a time series fashion. We adjusted for autocorrelation and developed general linear regression models to assess level and trend changes. Our primary outcome was the wait time to physician.
Data from 142,361 ED visits were analysed. Baseline wait times rose at both sites during the pre-intervention phase. Immediately post-intervention, the median wait time increased by 2.4 minutes at the control site and fell by 7.2 minutes at the intervention site (difference=9.6 minutes; 95% confidence interval, 2.9-16.4; p=0.007). The wait time trend (slope) subsequently deteriorated by 0.5 minutes per week at the intervention site relative to the expected counterfactual (p for the trend difference=0.07). By the end of the study, cross-site differences had not changed significantly from baseline.
Fee-for-service payment was associated with a 9.6-minute (24%) reduction in wait time, compatible with an extrinsic motivational effect; however, this was not sustained, and the intervention had no impact on other operational parameters studied. Physician compensation is an important policy issue but may not be a primary determinant of ED operational efficiency.
An evidence-based emergency department (ED) atrial fibrillation and flutter (AFF) pathway was developed to improve care. The primary objective was to measure rates of new anticoagulation (AC) on ED discharge for AFF patients who were not AC correctly upon presentation.
This is a pre-post evaluation from April to December 2013 measuring the impact of our pathway on rates of new AC and other performance measures in patients with uncomplicated AFF solely managed by emergency physicians. A standardized chart review identified demographics, comorbidities, and ED treatments. The primary outcome was the rate of new AC. Secondary outcomes were ED length of stay (LOS), referrals to AFF clinic, ED revisit rates, and 30-day rates of return visits for congestive heart failure (CHF), stroke, major bleeding, and death.
ED AFF patients totalling 301 (129 pre-pathway [PRE]; 172 post-pathway [POST]) were included; baseline demographics were similar between groups. The rates of AC at ED presentation were 18.6% (PRE) and 19.7% (POST). The rates of new AC on ED discharge were 48.6 % PRE (95% confidence interval [CI] 42.1%-55.1%) and 70.2% POST (62.1%-78.3%) (20.6% [p<0.01; 15.1-26.3]). Median ED LOS decreased from 262 to 218 minutes (44 minutes [p<0.03; 36.2-51.8]). Thirty-day rates of ED revisits for CHF decreased from 13.2% to 2.3% (10.9%; p<0.01; 8.1%-13.7%), and rates of other measures were similar.
The evidence-based pathway led to an improvement in the rate of patients with new AC upon discharge, a reduction in ED LOS, and decreased revisit rates for CHF.
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation within CPR (ECPR) may improve survival for refractory out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA). We developed a prehospital, emergency department (ED), and hospital-based clinical and educational protocol to improve the key variable of time-to-ECPR (TTE).
In a single urban health region we involved key prehospital, clinical, and administrative stakeholders over a 2-year period, to develop a regional ECPR program with destination to a single urban tertiary care hospital. We developed clear and reproducible inclusion criteria and processes, including measures of program efficiency. We conducted seminars and teaching modules to paramedics and hospital-based clinicians including monthly simulator sessions, and performed detailed reviews of each treated case in the form of report cards. In this before-and-after study we compared patients with ECPR attempted prior to, and after, protocol implementation. The primary outcome was TTE, defined as the time of initial professional CPR to establishment of extracorporeal circulation. We compared the median TTE for patients in the two groups using the Wilcoxon signed rank test.
Four patients were identified prior to the protocol and managed in an ad hoc basis; for nine patients the protocol was utilized. Overall favourable neurological outcomes among ECPR-treated patients were 27%. The median TTE was 136 minutes (IQR 98 - 196) in the pre-protocol group, and 60 minutes (IQR 49 - 81) minutes in the protocol group (p=0.0165).
An organized clinical and educational protocol to initiate ECPR for patients with OHCA is feasible and significantly reduces the key benchmark of time-to-ECPR flows.
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