Rapid Medical Screening Process Improves Patient Flow in EDs

The implementation of a rapid screening process could improve patient flow during surges in patient volume without affecting rates of return to the emergency department, according to a study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine.

The research was conducted during the fall of 2009 when surges in patient volume occurred due to H1N1. Researchers studied how a rapid screening process improved patient flow compared to the previous winter virus season.

The screening process included the use of a new, separate clinical next to the ED. Researchers also used a new preprinted checklist for quick documentation of medical history and physical examination of patients with flu-like illness, "classroom-style" parent discharge information and preprinted discharge prescription and instructions. Patient flow parameters, including waiting time, length of stay, elopement rates and returns to ED within 48 hours and seven days, were closely measured and compared to the previous winter's measurements.

Results showed the mean wait time decreased from 93 minutes to 81 minutes, overall mean ED length of stay decreased from 241 to 212 minutes and rates of elopement remained unchanged and showed improved responsiveness to high patient volumes. Additionally, rates of return within 48 hours and within seven days stayed the same. Researchers also found the ED was able to accommodate the patient volume increases with only a modest increase in staffing hours.

Read the study about patient flow in EDs.

Read other coverage about emergency medicine:

- Study: CT Use in EDs Increased Six Fold From 1995-2007

- Healthcare Reform's Impact on Hospital Emergency Departments: 6 Considerations

- Vanderbilt Research Team Studies Robots in EDs

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