Rapid process redesign in a university-based emergency department: decreasing waiting time intervals and improving patient satisfaction

Ann Emerg Med. 2002 Feb;39(2):168-77. doi: 10.1067/mem.2002.121215.


Academic emergency departments are traditionally associated with inefficiency and long waits. The academic medical model presents unique barriers to system changes. Several non-university-based EDs have undertaken process redesign, with significant decreases in patient waiting time intervals. This is the presentation of a rapid process redesign in a university-based ED to reduce waiting time intervals. We present the application of a process-improvement team approach to evaluate and redesign patient flow. As a result of this effort, the median waiting room time interval (triage to patient room) decreased from 31 minutes in January 1998 to 4 minutes in July 1998. ED throughput times also decreased, from 4 hours, 21 minutes in January 1998 to 2 hours, 55 minutes in July 1998. Urgent care waiting room time intervals decreased from 52 minutes to 7 minutes and throughput times from 2 hours, 9 minutes to 1 hour, 10 minutes. Patient satisfaction evaluations by an independent institute demonstrated dramatic improvement and establishment of a new benchmark for academic EDs. Process redesign is possible in a busy, complex, tertiary-care ED, with decreases in waiting time intervals and improvement in patient satisfaction. Major sustained support from top-level hospital administrators and physician leadership are fundamental prerequisites. With these in place, a process improvement team approach for evaluating and redesigning the patient care system can be successful.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Hospital Design and Construction
  • Humans
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors