Study objective: We designed and implemented an emergency department (ED) team assignment system, each team consisting of 1 emergency physician, 2 nurses, and usually 1 technician. Patients were assigned in rotation upon arrival to a specific team that was responsible for their care. We monitored the time from arrival to physician assessment, percentage of patients who left without being seen by a physician, and patient satisfaction before and after team assignment system implementation.
Methods: This study was done in a suburban community hospital with an annual ED census of approximately 39,000. Time to physician assessment was defined from the completion of the medical screening evaluation by an ED nurse at triage to initiation of emergency physician evaluation. Times were documented on the ED paper record and manually entered into a computerized registration by the clerical staff. Patients who left without being seen was reported as percentage of total ED visits. Patient satisfaction scores using a 5-point Likert scale to assess satisfaction with the emergency physician, ED staff courtesy, and coordination of care were gathered every 3 months from random mailings to a subset of patients.
Results: The 12-month ED census was 38,716 before team assignment system implementation and 39,301 afterwards. Complete time data were recorded for 34,152 (88.2%) and 32,537 (82.8%) of the patients, respectively. The mean time to physician assessment was 71.3+/-7.0 minutes before and 61.8+/-6.4 minutes after team assignment system implementation (absolute difference -9.5 minutes; 95% confidence interval [CI] -5.8 to -13.5 minutes). The percentage of patients seen by a physician within 1 hour was 56.3% before and 64.0% after team assignment system implementation (absolute difference 7.7%; 95% CI 5.1% to 10.3%). The percentage of patients who waited more than 3 hours for physician assessment was 17.8% before and 11.8% after team assignment system implementation (absolute difference -6.0%, 95% CI -4.0% to -8.1%). Before team assignment system, the left without being seen rate was 2.3% compared to 1.6% after team assignment system (absolute difference -0.8%; 95% CI -0.4% to -1.1%). Patient satisfaction reported as very good or excellent showed improvement in satisfaction with the physician (absolute increase 3.1%; 95% CI 1.0% to 5.3%), staff courtesy (absolute increase 4.5%; 95% CI 2.3% to 6.7%), and coordination of care (absolute increase 3.6%; 95% CI 0.8% to 6.4%).
Conclusion: The implementation of a team assignment system in our ED was associated with reduced time to physician assessment, a reduced percentage of patients who left without being seen, and improved patient satisfaction.