Objectives: Emergency department (ED) length of stay (LOS) impacts patient satisfaction and overcrowding. Laboratory turnaround time (TAT) is a major determinant of ED LOS. The authors determined the impact of a Stat laboratory (Stat lab) on ED LOS. The authors hypothesized that a Stat lab would reduce ED LOS for admitted patients by 1 hour.
Methods: This was a before-and-after study conducted at an academic suburban ED with 75,000 annual patient visits. All patients presenting to the ED during the months of August and October 2006 were considered. A Stat lab located within the central laboratory was introduced in September 2006 to reduce laboratory TAT. The test TATs and ED LOS before (August 2006) and after (October 2006) implementing the Stat lab for all ED patients were the data of interest. ED LOS before and after the Stat lab was introduced was compared with the Mann-Whitney U-test. A sample size of 5,000 patients in each group had 99% power to detect a 1-hour difference in ED LOS.
Results: There were 5,631 ED visits before and 5,635 visits after implementing the Stat lab. Groups were similar in age (34 years vs. 36 years) and gender (51% males in both). The percentages of patients with laboratory tests before and after Stat lab implementation were 68.7 and 71.3%, respectively. Test TATs for admitted patients were significantly improved after the Stat lab introduction. Implementation of the Stat lab was associated with a significant reduction in the median ED LOS from 466 (interquartile range [IQR] = minutes before to 402 (IQR = 296-553) minutes after implementing the Stat lab. The effects of the Stat lab on ED LOS were less marked for discharged patients.
Conclusions: Introduction of a Stat lab dedicated to the ED within the central laboratory was associated with shorter laboratory TATs and shorter ED LOS for admitted patients, by approximately 1 hour.