Background: Emergency department (ED) crowding is just beginning to be quantified. The only two scales presently available are the National Emergency Department Overcrowding Scale (NEDOCS) and the Emergency Department Work Index (EDWIN).
Objectives: To assess the value of the NEDOCS and the EDWIN in predicting overcrowding. The hypothesis of this study was that the NEDOCS and the EDWIN would be equally sensitive and specific for overcrowding.
Methods: The NEDOCS, the EDWIN, and an overcrowding measure (OV) were determined every two hours for a ten-day period in December 2004. The NEDOCS is a statistically derived calculation, and the EDWIN is a formula-based calculation. The overcrowding measure is a composite of physician and charge nurse expert opinion on the degree of overcrowding as measured on a 100-mm visual analogue scale (VAS). The primary outcome, overcrowding, was based on the dichotomized OV VAS score at the midpoint of 50 mm (> or =50, overcrowded; <50, not overcrowded). The area under the receiver operator characteristic curve (AUC) and an index of adequacy (relative prognostic content) of each measure, on the basis of the likelihood ratio chi-square statistic, were computed to evaluate the performance of NEDOCS and EDWIN.
Results: There were 130 completed sampling times over ten days. The OV indicated that the ED was overcrowded 62% of the time. The AUC for the NEDOCS was 0.83 (95% CI = 0.75 to 0.90), and the AUC for the EDWIN was 0.80 (95% CI = 0.73 to 0.88). The NEDOCS score accounts for 97% of the prognostic information provided by combining all variables used in each model into one combined model. The EDWIN score accounts for only 86% (chi2 test for difference, p = 0.02).
Conclusions: Both scales had high AUCs, correlated well with each other, and showed good discrimination for predicting ED overcrowding. This establishes construct validity for these scales as measures of overcrowding. Which scale is used in an ED is dependent on which set of data is most readily available, with the favored scale being the NEDOCS.