Does Crowding Increase Mortality In Low-Acuity Discharged Patients?

Written by Clay Smith

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ED crowding was associated with markedly increased odds of 10-day mortality in lower acuity patients who were discharged home.

Why does this matter?
ED crowding may increase mortality in critically ill patients. But what about lower acuity patients sent home during periods of overcrowding?

Crowding our judgment
This was a retrospective look at a large ED registry with over 700,000 patients to determine the effect of ED crowding on 10-day mortality in patients who were ESI acuity 3-5 and were discharged home. Patients in this group who were discharged and died within 10 days (0.09%) tended to be older, ESI 3 (vs 4 or 5), and had more comorbidities. Specifically related to crowding, odds of short-term death was nearly 6 times greater when the ED length of stay was 8 vs 2 hours (aOR 5.86; 95%CI 2.15 to 15.94). ED occupancy ratio in the upper quartile (compared to the lowest quartile) was associated with a 53% increased odds of early mortality (aOR 1.53; 95% CI 1.15 to 2.03). What I take away is that crowding may cloud our judgment. Someone we might ordinarily admit may seem more appropriate for discharge if we know they will continue to take up an ED bed as a boarder. Be especially cautious before sending elderly, level 3 patients with a load of medical problems home.

Associations Between Crowding and Ten-Day Mortality Among Patients Allocated Lower Triage Acuity Levels Without Need of Acute Hospital Care on Departure From the Emergency Department. Ann Emerg Med. 2019 Jun 19. pii: S0196-0644(19)30331-2. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2019.04.012. [Epub ahead of print]

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Reviewed by Thomas Davis

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