Emergency department and hospital crowding: causes, consequences, and cures

Clin Exp Emerg Med. 2019 Sep;6(3):189-195. doi: 10.15441/ceem.18.022. Epub 2019 Jul 12.


Overcrowding with associated delays in patient care is a problem faced by emergency departments (EDs) worldwide. ED overcrowding can be the result of poor ED department design and prolonged throughput due to staffing, ancillary service performance, and flow processes. As such, the problem may be addressed by process improvements within the ED. A broad body of literature demonstrates that ED overcrowding can be a function of hospital capacity rather than an ED specific issue. Lack of institutional capacity leads to boarding in the ED with resultant ED crowding. This is a problem not solvable by the ED and must be addressed as an institution-wide problem. This paper discusses the causes of ED overcrowding, provides a brief overview of the drastic consequences, and discusses possible cures that have been successfully implemented.

Keywords: Emergency service, hospital; Patient safety; Crowding.