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Operations Factors Associated with Emergency Department Length of Stay: Analysis of a National Operations Database

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Introduction: Prolonged emergency department (ED) length of stay (LOS) has been shown to adversely affect patient care. We sought to determine factors associated with ED LOS via analysis of a large, national, ED operations database.

Methods: We performed retrospective, multivariable, linear regression modeling using the 2019 Emergency Department Benchmarking Alliance survey results to identify associated factors of ED LOS for admitted and discharged patients.

Results: A total of 1,052 general and adult-only EDs responded to the survey. Median annual volume was 40,946. The median admit and discharge LOS were 289 minutes and 147 minutes, respectively. R-squared values for the admit and discharge models were 0.63 and 0.56 with out-of-sample R-squared values of 0.54 and 0.59, respectively. Both admit and discharge LOS were associated with academic designation, trauma level designation, annual volume, proportion of ED arrivals occurring via emergency medical services, median boarding, and use of a fast track. Additionally, admit LOS was associated with transfer-out percentage, and discharge LOS was associated with percentage of high Current Procedural Terminology, percentage of patients <18 years old, use of radiographs and computed tomography, and use of an intake physician.

Conclusion: Models derived from a large, nationally representative cohort identified diverse associated factors of ED length of stay, several of which were not previously reported. Dominant within the LOS modeling were patient population characteristics and other factors extrinsic to ED operations, including boarding of admitted patients, which was associated with both admitted and discharged LOS. The results of the modeling have significant implications for ED process improvement and appropriate benchmarking.

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