Emergency department crowding is associated with decreased quality of care for children with acute asthma

Ann Emerg Med. 2011 Mar;57(3):191-200.e1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2010.08.027.


Study objective: We seek to determine which dimensions of quality of care are most influenced by emergency department (ED) crowding for patients with acute asthma exacerbations.

Methods: This cross-sectional study with retrospective data collection included patients aged 2 to 21 years treated for acute asthma during November 2007 to October 2008 at a children's hospital ED. We studied 3 processes of care-asthma score, β-agonist, and corticosteroid administration-and 9 quality measures representing 3 quality dimensions: timeliness (1-hour receipt of each process), effectiveness (receipt/nonreceipt of each process), and equity (language, identified primary care provider, and insurance). Primary independent variables were 2 crowding measures: ED occupancy and number waiting to see an attending-level physician. Models were adjusted for age, language, insurance, primary care access, triage level, ambulance arrival, oximetry, smoke exposure, and time of day. For timeliness and effectiveness quality measures, we calculated the adjusted risk of each quality measure at 5 percentiles of crowding for each crowding measure and assessed the significance of the adjusted relative interquartile risk ratios. For equity measures, we tested their role as moderators of the crowding-quality models.

Results: The asthma population included 927 patients. Timeliness and effectiveness quality measures showed an inverse, dose-related association with crowding, an effect not moderated by equity measures. Patients were 52% to 74% less likely to receive timely care and were 9% to 14% less likely to receive effective care when each crowding measure was at the 75th rather than at the 25th percentile (P<.05).

Conclusion: ED crowding is associated with decreased timeliness and effectiveness-but not equity-of care for children with acute asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asthma / therapy*
  • Bed Occupancy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Crowding*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital* / standards
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care / standards
  • Quality of Health Care* / standards
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult