Parental preferences for boarding locations when a children's hospital exceeds capacity

Bridgette D Guthrie, William D King, Kathy W Monroe
Annals of Emergency Medicine 2009, 53 (6): 762-6

STUDY OBJECTIVE: Our objective is to determine parental preferences for boarding locations when a children's hospital is at full capacity. We also assess parental interest in transfer to a general hospital when a children's hospital is experiencing crowding.

METHODS: Eligible patients were surveyed within 24 hours of admission. Surveys were completed in emergency department (ED) and inpatient areas. Previous admission was not required; children with chronic illnesses were included. Parents were asked whether they would prefer their child to board in an ED hallway or inpatient hallway or whether they had no preference. Parents were also asked the maximum acceptable waiting time for an inpatient bed and whether they would prefer to be transferred to another hospital should the children's hospital not have a bed available. Responses were hypothetical and confidential and did not affect care.

RESULTS: A total of 382 patients met enrollment criteria and 359 (94%) were enrolled; 58.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] 53.5% to 63.9%) preferred boarding on inpatient hallways, 11.1% (95% CI 8.2% to 15.0%) preferred ED hallways, and 30.1% (95% CI 25.4% to 35.2%) had no preference. Seventy percent (95% CI 65.2% to 74.9%) of parents preferred to wait at a children's hospital despite crowding. Most parents believed that the maximum acceptable waiting time was less than or equal to 3 hours.

CONCLUSION: Parents of pediatric patients prefer boarding on inpatient hallways over ED hallways. The majority of parents prefer to remain at a children's hospital despite crowded conditions, but some parents may be amenable to transfer. These results may help institutions develop strategies to improve patient satisfaction when hospital capacity is exceeded.

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