Emergency department patient preferences for boarding locations when hospitals are at full capacity

Chad Garson, Judd E Hollander, Karin V Rhodes, Frances S Shofer, William G Baxt, Jesse M Pines
Annals of Emergency Medicine 2008, 51 (1): 9-12, 12.e1-3

STUDY OBJECTIVE: Admitted patients are frequently boarded in emergency departments (EDs) when hospitals are at full capacity, which lessens the ED's ability to treat new patients. One alternative is to board admitted patients in inpatient hallways. We assess ED patient preferences for boarding location.

METHODS: We surveyed adult ED patients during a 4-week period on preferences for boarding location. Patients were eligible if they were currently being admitted through the ED and had experienced at least 1 previous hospital admission to ensure knowledge of both the ED and inpatient locations. Patients were asked to choose whether they would rather board in an ED hallway or an inpatient hallway or whether they had no preference. Survey responses were hypothetical and did not affect care or bed placement. We tested whether patient demographics, survey location (ED room or ED hallway), admission service, timing to room placement, time to admission request, and time to survey administration were associated with survey responses.

RESULTS: A total of 565 patients were approached; 87% consented to be interviewed. Of those consented, 88% of patients had been previously admitted, leaving 431 patients in the study group. A total of 64% (95% confidence interval [CI] 59% to 69%) had a preference for boarding location: 59% (95% CI 52% to 65%) preferred inpatient hallways and 41% (95% CI 35% to 48%) preferred ED hallways. Survey location, admission service, time to room placement, admission request, and survey administration were not associated with survey responses.

CONCLUSION: When hospitals are at full capacity, patients would rather board in inpatient hallways than ED hallways.

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