Emergency department (ED) overcrowding has grown in recent years. Most health system and political leaders believe that the culprit is too many low-acuity patients presenting to the ED, what are called “inappropriate” patients. The common wisdom is that these patients can and should seek treatment at lower-acuity, more appropriate sites of care. Governments, health systems, and payers are thus investing significantly in sites of care to serve as ED alternatives, to which they can ideally divert a substantial number of inappropriate ED presentations.
Stakeholders across the industry hope that a resulting reduction in inappropriate presentations will enable EDs to boost performance and reduce crowding to a manageable level.
Leaders are right when they say that a significant portion of ED presentations are by low-acuity patients who can be treated in ED alternatives. But the main source of ED capacity challenges, increases in wait times, and burdens on clinician time is the patient cohort that health systems and regulators view as “appropriate”: acute presentations that require time-sensitive interventions.
There are three factors that point to this reality:
Ideally, systems and governments could invest in all possible solutions. But the scarcity of resources, investing in acute care efficiencies such as clinical decision support system (CDSS) technologies, longitudinal care management, hospital-in-the-home (HITH), and remote patient monitoring (RPM) tools are more sustainable solutions for addressing the root of the ED capacity problem than other popular investments such as building ED alternatives or urgent care clinics.
Create your free account to access 2 resources each month, including the latest research and webinars.
You have 2 free members-only resources remaining this month remaining this month.
Never miss out on the latest innovative health care content tailored to you.