The association between transfer of emergency department boarders to inpatient hallways and mortality: a 4-year experience

Ann Emerg Med. 2009 Oct;54(4):487-91. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2009.03.005. Epub 2009 Apr 3.


Study objective: We developed and implemented an institutional protocol aimed at reducing crowding by admitting boarded patients to hospital inpatient hallways. We hypothesized that transfer of admitted patients from the emergency department (ED) to inpatient hallways would be feasible and not create patient harm.

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study in a suburban, academic ED with an annual census of 70,000. We studied consecutive patients admitted from our ED between January 2004 and January 2008. In 2001, a multidisciplinary team developed and implemented an institutional protocol in which admitted adult patients boarded in the ED were transferred to hospital inpatient hallways under select conditions. We extracted data from the electronic medical record system, measuring patient demographics, ED disposition (discharge, admit to floor, admit to hallway), ED length of stay, and inhospital mortality. We report ED length of stay, subsequent transfer to an ICU, and hospital mortality of patients admitted to standard and hallway inpatient beds.

Results: Of 55,062 ED patients admitted, there were 1,798 deaths. Of all admissions, 2,042 (4%) went to a hallway; 53,020 went to a standard bed. Patients admitted to standard and hallway beds were similar in age (median [interquartile range] 55 years [37 to 72 years] and 54 years [41 to 70 years], respectively) and sex (48.2% and 50% female patients, respectively). The median (interquartile range) times from ED triage to actual admission in patients admitted to standard and hallway beds were 426 minutes (306 to 600 minutes) and 624 (439 to 895 minutes) minutes, respectively (P<.001). Median ED census at triage was lower for standard bed admissions than for hallway patients (44 [33 to 53] versus 50 [38 to 61], respectively, P<.001). Inhospital mortality rates were higher among patients admitted to standard beds (2.6%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.5% to 2.7%) than among patients admitted to hallway beds (1.1%; 95% CI 0.7% to 1.7%). ICU transfers were also higher in the standard bed admissions (6.7% [95% CI 6.5% to 6.9%] versus 2.5% [95% CI 1.9% to 3.3%]).

Conclusion: Transfer of ED-boarded admitted patients to an inpatient hallway occurs during high ED census and waiting times for admission but does not appears to result in patient harm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Hospital Mortality*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Patient Admission*
  • Patient Transfer*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Suburban Population