A pilot study examining undesirable events among emergency department-boarded patients awaiting inpatient beds

Ann Emerg Med. 2009 Sep;54(3):381-5. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2009.02.001. Epub 2009 Mar 20.


Study objective: We describe the frequency of undesirable events among patients boarding at a single, urban, tertiary, teaching emergency department (ED) through retrospective chart abstraction.

Methods: This was a chart review of all patients admitted during 3 randomly selected days in 2003 (n=162) to track the frequency of undesirable events such as missed relevant home medications, missed laboratory test results, arrhythmias, or other adverse events.

Results: One hundred fifty-one charts were abstracted (93.2%); 27.8% had an undesirable event, 17.9% missed a relevant home medication, and 3.3% had a preventable adverse event. There was a higher frequency of undesirable events among older patients (35.9%, aged >50 years; 7.3%, aged 20 to 49 years; 28.6%, aged 0 to 19 years) and those with more comorbidities (44.4% among Charlson score >or=3; 30.8% score 2; 36.1% score 1; 14.5% score 0).

Conclusion: A substantial frequency of undesirable events occurs while patients board in the ED. These events are more frequent in older patients or those with more comorbidities. Future studies need to compare the rates of undesirable events among patients boarding in the ED versus inpatient units.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Crowding
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Teaching / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals, Urban / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Admission*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • United States
  • Waiting Lists*
  • Young Adult