4 hospital approaches to combat capacity issues

Hospitals are employing a range of different measures to address capacity challenges and reduce emergency department wait times. 

As of May 13, more than 73 percent of U.S. hospital beds were in use, which isn't a significant drop from rates seen during past COVID-19 surges.

Here are four efforts Becker's has reported on in recent weeks: 

  1. Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital has opened a "discharge lounge" — a designated space in the lobby for patients waiting to be transported home, which enables the hospital to open up beds for new admissions sooner than they would be able to otherwise. 


  1. Hackensack Meridian Health's Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin, N.J., has cut its average ED wait time to seven minutes though the Pull to Infinity program implemented last June. The initiative involves taking patients who enter the ED straight from check in to a "triage hallway," bypassing the typical waiting room or triage room. The triage hallway has dedicated nurses and patient care technicians who start care right away.


  1. Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J., is utilizing a similar approach that has shrunk its "left without being seen rate" to nearly zero. Emergency medicine leaders at the hospital put a direct bedding initiative in place, which eliminated the need for a waiting room and has cut waiting times to see a physician to under 10 minutes. The approach involved cooperation and collaboration from every service line that works with the ED. 


  1. The University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center has rolled out a plan to cut wait times, which involves vertical care, where patients who can stay upright are cared for without being placed in an ER bed. Rapid medical evaluations also help get testing and treatment started for some patients in the waiting room. 

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