Emergency department patient preferences for waiting for a bed

Simone Bartlett, Daniel M Fatovich
Emergency Medicine Australasia: EMA 2009, 21 (1): 25-30

OBJECTIVE: Many EDs have difficulty transferring admitted patients to inpatient beds in a timely manner because of access block. We assessed ED patient preferences for waiting location.

METHOD: Admitted ED patients at Royal Perth Hospital, Perth, Western Australia, Australia were surveyed over a 4 week period. Patients were questioned about their preferences for waiting location (ED cubicle, ED corridor, ward corridor, no preference). Patients were also asked what they felt was the maximum acceptable time for waiting for a ward bed. We also assessed if patient expectations were met with regards to their waiting times.

RESULTS: A total of 400 patients were surveyed. Of all, 121 patients (30.2%) had no preference for waiting location and 215 patients (53.8%) preferred ED cubicles. If the waiting location option was between EDs and ward corridors, 185 patients (46.2%) had no preference. Of the 215 patients who had a preference, 72.1% preferred to wait in a ward corridor (95% CI 65.5-77.8%) and 27.9% preferred the ED corridor (95% CI 22.1-34.5%). Fifty-seven per cent of patients expected to get to their ward bed within 6 h. Seventy-two point one per cent (95% CI 66.3%-77.2%) of patients did not have their expectations met for bed waiting times.

CONCLUSIONS: Patients would prefer to wait in ward corridors for their ward bed if there was no ED cubicle available. Waiting in the ED corridor is their least preferred option. Patients usually expect to get to their ward bed within 3 h. However, with high levels of access block, patient expectations for waiting times for a bed are usually not met. These findings could be used to drive system changes that are more patient-focussed.

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