Effects of process changes on emergency department crowding in a changing world: an interrupted time-series analysis

M. Christien van der Linden, Merel van Loon-van Gaalen, John R. Richards, Geesje van Woerden, Naomi van der Linden*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: During a 6-year period, several process changes were introduced at the emergency department (ED) to decrease crowding, such as the implementation of a general practitioner cooperative (GPC) and additional medical staff during peak hours. In this study, we assessed the effects of these process changes on three crowding measures: patients’ length of stay (LOS), the modified National ED OverCrowding Score (mNEDOCS), and exit block while taking into account changing external circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and centralization of acute care. Methods: We determined time points of the various interventions and external circumstances and built an interrupted time-series (ITS) model per outcome measure. We analyzed changes in level and trend before and after the selected time points using ARIMA modeling, to account for autocorrelation in the outcome measures. Results: Longer patients’ ED LOS was associated with more inpatient admissions and more urgent patients. The mNEDOCS decreased with the integration of the GPC and the expansion of the ED to 34 beds and increased with the closure of a neighboring ED and ICU. More exit blocks occurred when more patients with shortness of breath and more patients > 70 years of age presented to the ED. During the severe influenza wave of 2018–2019, patients’ ED LOS and the number of exit blocks increased. Conclusions: In the ongoing battle against ED crowding, it is pivotal to understand the effect of interventions, corrected for changing circumstances and patient and visit characteristics. In our ED, interventions which were associated with decreased crowding measures included the expansion of the ED with more beds and the integration of the GPC on the ED.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalInternational journal of emergency medicine
Issue number1
Early online date15 Feb 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print/First online - 15 Feb 2023


  • Emergency department
  • Exit block
  • Length of stay
  • Patient flow
  • Surge capacity

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