Emergency department crowding and hospital transformation during COVID-19, a retrospective, descriptive study of a university hospital in Stockholm, Sweden.

Af Ugglas B, Skyttberg N, Wladis A, Djärv T, Holzmann MJ

Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med 28 (1) 107 [2020-10-28; online 2020-10-28]

COVID-19 presents challenges to the emergency care system that could lead to emergency department (ED) crowding. The Huddinge site at the Karolinska university hospital (KH) responded through a rapid transformation of inpatient care capacity together with changing working methods in the ED. The aim is to describe the KH response to the COVID-19 crisis, and how ED crowding, and important input, throughput and output factors for ED crowding developed at KH during a 30-day baseline period followed by the first 60 days of the COVID-19 outbreak in Stockholm Region. Different phases in the development of the crisis were described and identified retrospectively based on major events that changed the conditions for the ED. Results were presented for each phase separately. The outcome ED length of stay (ED LOS) was calculated with mean and 95% confidence intervals. Input, throughput, output and demographic factors were described using distributions, proportions and means. Pearson correlation between ED LOS and emergency ward occupancy by phase was estimated with 95% confidence interval. As new working methods were introduced between phase 2 and 3, ED LOS declined from mean (95% CI) 386 (373-399) minutes to 307 (297-317). Imaging proportion was reduced from 29 to 18% and admission rate increased from 34 to 43%. Correlation (95% CI) between emergency ward occupancy and ED LOS by phase was 0.94 (0.55-0.99). It is possible to avoid ED crowding, even during extreme and quickly changing conditions by leveraging previously known input, throughput and output factors. One key factor was the change in working methods in the ED with higher competence, less diagnostics and increased focus on rapid clinical admission decisions. Another important factor was the reduction in bed occupancy in emergency wards that enabled a timely admission to inpatient care. A key limitation was the retrospective study design.

Category: Health

Type: Journal article

PubMed 33115521

DOI 10.1186/s13049-020-00799-6

Crossref 10.1186/s13049-020-00799-6

pii: 10.1186/s13049-020-00799-6
pmc: PMC7592192

Publications 7.1.2