Objectives: Boarding admitted patients in emergency department (ED) treatment beds has been recognized as a major cause of ED crowding and ambulance diversions. When process delays impede the transfer of admitted patients from the ED to inpatient units, the department's capacity to accept new arrivals and to generate revenue from additional patient services is restricted. The objective of this study was to determine the amount of functional ED treatment capacity that was used to board inpatients during 12 months of operations at a community hospital and to estimate the value of that lost treatment capacity.
Methods: Historical data from 62,588 patient visits to the ED of a 450-bed nonprofit community teaching hospital in south central Pennsylvania between July 2004 and June 2005 were used to determine the amount of treatment bed occupancy lost to inpatient holding and the revenue potential of utilizing that blocked production capacity for additional patient visits.
Results: Transferring admitted patients from the ED to an inpatient unit within 120 minutes would have increased the functional treatment capacity of the ED by 10,397 hours during the 12 months of this study. By reducing admission process delays, the hospital could potentially have accommodated another 3,175 patient encounters in its existing treatment spaces. Providing emergency services to new patients in ED beds formerly used to board inpatients could have generated $3,960,264 in additional net revenue for the hospital.
Conclusions: Significantly higher operational revenues could be generated by reducing output delays that restrict optimal utilization of existing ED treatment capacity.