Decreasing Emergency Department Walkout Rate and Boarding Hours by Improving Inpatient Length of Stay

West J Emerg Med. 2017 Oct;18(6):982-992. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2017.7.34663. Epub 2017 Sep 18.


Introduction: Patient progress, the movement of patients through a hospital system from admission to discharge, is a foundational component of operational effectiveness in healthcare institutions. Optimal patient progress is a key to delivering safe, high-quality and high-value clinical care. The Baystate Patient Progress Initiative (BPPI), a cross-disciplinary, multifaceted quality and process improvement project, was launched on March 1, 2014, with the primary goal of optimizing patient progress for adult patients.

Methods: The BPPI was implemented at our system's tertiary care, academic medical center, a high-volume, high-acuity hospital that serves as a regional referral center for western Massachusetts. The BPPI was structured as a 24-month initiative with an oversight group that ensured collaborative goal alignment and communication of operational teams. It was organized to address critical aspects of a patient's progress through his hospital stay and to create additional inpatient capacity. The specific goal of the BPPI was to decrease length of stay (LOS) on the inpatient adult Hospital Medicine service by optimizing an interdisciplinary plan of care and promoting earlier departure of discharged patients. Concurrently, we measured the effects on emergency department (ED) boarding hours per patient and walkout rates.

Results: The BPPI engaged over 300 employed clinicians and non-clinicians in the work. We created increased inpatient capacity by implementing daily interdisciplinary bedside rounds to proactively address patient progress; during the 24 months, this resulted in a sustained rate of discharge orders written before noon of more than 50% and a decrease in inpatient LOS of 0.30 days (coefficient: -0.014, 95% CI [-0.023, -0.005] P< 0.005). Despite the increase in ED patient volumes and severity of illness over the same time period, ED boarding hours per patient decreased by approximately 2.1 hours (coefficient: -0.09; 95% CI [-0.15, -0.02] P = 0.007). Concurrently, ED walkout rates decreased by nearly 32% to a monthly mean of 0.4 patients (coefficient: 0.4; 95% CI [-0.7, -0.1] P= 0.01).

Conclusion: The BPPI realized significant gains in patient progress for adult patients by promoting earlier discharges before noon and decreasing overall inpatient LOS. Concurrently, ED boarding hours per patient and walkout rates decreased.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / organization & administration*
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Efficiency, Organizational
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay*
  • Patient Admission
  • Patient Care Team
  • Patient Discharge
  • Patient Dropouts
  • Quality Improvement*
  • Time Factors