A time and motion study of patients presenting at the accident and emergency department at Mater Dei Hospital

BMC Res Notes. 2011 Oct 18;4:421. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-4-421.


Background: To carry out a time and motion study of patients presenting at the Emergency Department (ED) by measuring waiting times at the ED dept throughout the day. The objectives were:• to determine whether waiting times are prolonged, and• if prolonged, at which station(s) bottlenecks occur most often in terms of duration and frequency.Results will be compared to the United Kingdom guidelines of stay at the emergency department.

Methods: A group of 11 medical students monitored all patients who attended ED between 0600 hours on the 25th August and 0600 hours on the 1st September 2008. For each 24 hour period, students were assigned to the triage room and the 3 priority areas where they monitored all patient-related activity, movement and waiting times so that length of stay (LOS) could be recorded. The key data recorded included patient characteristics, waiting times at various ED process stages, tests performed, specialist consultations and follow up until admitted, discharged, or referred to another hospital area. Average waiting times were calculated for each priority area. Bottle-necks and major limiting factors were identified. Results were compared against the United Kingdom benchmarks - i.e. 1 hour until first assessment, and 4 hours before admitting/discharge.

Results: 1779 patients presented to the ED in the week monitored. As expected, patients in the lesser priority areas (i.e. 2 & 3) waited longer before being assessed by staff. Patients requiring laboratory and imaging investigations had a prolonged length of stay, which varied depending on specific tests ordered. Specialty consultation was associated with longer waiting times. A major bottleneck identified was waiting times for inpatient admission.

Conclusions: In conclusion, it was found that 30.3% of priority 1 patients, 86.3% of priority 2 patients and 76.8% of priority 3 patients waited more than 1 hour for first assessment. We conclude by proposing several changes that may expedite throughput.