Michigan Emergency Department Leader Attitudes Toward and Experiences With Clinical Pathways to Guide Admission Decisions: A Mixed-methods Study

Acad Emerg Med. 2019 Apr;26(4):384-393. doi: 10.1111/acem.13555. Epub 2018 Oct 25.


Objectives: The objective was to characterize emergency department (ED) leader's attitudes toward potentially avoidable admissions and experiences with the use of clinical pathways to guide admission decisions, including the challenges and successes with implementation of these pathways.

Methods: A mixed-methods study of Michigan ED leaders was conducted. First, a cross-sectional Web-based survey was distributed via e-mail to all 135 hospital-based EDs in the state. Descriptive statistics were calculated. Survey participants who provided contact information were considered eligible for follow-up. Semistructured interviews were conducted by telephone until thematic saturation was reached. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, reviewed for accuracy, and thematically coded. Representative quotes were extracted for reporting.

Results: Survey responses were received from 64 ED leaders (48% eligible response rate). Semistructured interviews were conducted with a purposeful sample of 11 of the 29 representatives willing to be contacted. Eight sites implemented clinical care pathways as a strategy to reduce avoidable admissions. Pathways were developed for high-frequency conditions. Many pathways were multidisciplinary, incorporating case managers and outpatient care providers, which was thought to improve acceptability. Five models of care emerged 1) standardized care, 2) observation medicine, 3) enhanced follow-up, 4) care coordination, and 5) comprehensive programs. We identified barriers to and facilitators of discharging a patient from the ED when an admission otherwise could be avoided. Barriers included limited access to follow-up, lack of care coordination, and lack of trust in patient's ability to provide self-care or navigate the system. Facilitators included strong relationships with outpatient providers, care coordination, and shared decision making.

Conclusions: Potential solutions to help avoid hospitalization from the ED include multidisciplinary clinical care pathways. Successful pathways emerged from bringing stakeholders from the ED, hospital, and health care community together. Additionally, emergency providers need systems and supports in place to help their patients navigate follow-up care in a timely fashion.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Critical Pathways*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Decision Making
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Michigan
  • Qualitative Research
  • Surveys and Questionnaires