If the quality of care in emergency departments (EDs) is measured by how long patients stay in the ED, measures should take into account the broad array of patient conditions and treatment needed, according to an AHRQ study. The research also concluded that ED quality could be measured and improved by standardizing the definition of “length of stay.” “Promoting such standards can enable EDs to compare ED stays fairly and guide improvements that yield a more timely and efficient patient experience,” said lead author Ernest Moy, M.D., M.P.H., of AHRQ. “Though considerable work remains before standards for collecting such data are clear and facilities collect such data consistently, it would create powerful incentives for hospitals to improve the ED services they provide.” The study, using AHRQ’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project data from 2011, examined more than 8.2 million ED visits among nearly 190 community nonrehabilitation hospitals in Florida. It ranked the 10 most common first-listed conditions among all ED visits, finding that the longest stays involved nonspecific chest pain (7.4 hours for discharged patients), urinary tract infections or mood disorders (4.8 hours for admitted patients) and schizophrenia or other psychiatric disorders (9.6 hours for transferred patients). The study also compared differences in using mean and median statistical calculations to measure ED length of stay.
Read full study: Length of stay in EDs: variation across classifications of clinical condition and patient discharge disposition., The American Journal of Emergency Medicine.