Predicting emergency department inpatient admissions to improve same-day patient flow

Acad Emerg Med. 2012 Sep;19(9):E1045-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2012.01435.x.


Objectives: The objectives were to evaluate three models that use information gathered during triage to predict, in real time, the number of emergency department (ED) patients who subsequently will be admitted to a hospital inpatient unit (IU) and to introduce a new methodology for implementing these predictions in the hospital setting.

Methods: Three simple methods were compared for predicting hospital admission at ED triage: expert opinion, naïve Bayes conditional probability, and a generalized linear regression model with a logit link function (logit-linear). Two months of data were gathered from the Boston VA Healthcare System's 13-bed ED, which receives approximately 1,100 patients per month. Triage nurses were asked to estimate the likelihood that each of 767 triaged patients from that 2-month period would be admitted after their ED treatment, by placing them into one of six categories ranging from low to high likelihood. Logit-linear regression and naïve Bayes models also were developed using retrospective data and used to estimate admission probabilities for each patient who entered the ED within a 2-month time frame, during triage hours (1,160 patients). Predictors considered included patient age, primary complaint, provider, designation (ED or fast track), arrival mode, and urgency level (emergency severity index assigned at triage).

Results: Of the three methods considered, logit-linear regression performed the best in predicting total bed need, with a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) area under the curve (AUC) of 0.887, an R(2) of 0.58, an average estimation error of 0.19 beds per day, and on average roughly 3.5 hours before peak demand occurred. Significant predictors were patient age, primary complaint, bed type designation, and arrival mode (p < 0.0001 for all factors). The naïve Bayesian model had similar positive predictive value, with an AUC of 0.841 and an R(2) of 0.58, but with average difference in total bed need of approximately 2.08 per day. Triage nurse expert opinion also had some predictive capability, with an R(2) of 0.52 and an average difference in total bed need of 1.87 per day.

Conclusions: Simple probability models can reasonably predict ED-to-IU patient volumes based on basic data gathered at triage. This predictive information could be used for improved real-time bed management, patient flow, and discharge processes. Both statistical models were reasonably accurate, using only a minimal number of readily available independent variables.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Boston
  • Child
  • Emergency Medicine / organization & administration
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / statistics & numerical data*
  • Length of Stay
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Transfer / organization & administration*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Total Quality Management
  • Triage*
  • Waiting Lists
  • Young Adult