Time Means Money in the ER

Moving patients into hospital beds more quickly can improve hospital revenue, study says

MONDAY, Dec. 27, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- U.S. hospitals could greatly increase their revenue and offset losses from providing charity care by moving admitted emergency room patients into hospital beds more quickly.

That conclusion comes from a study in the current online issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

"With 44 million uninsured Americans, hospital emergency departments provide a great deal of uncompensated care as the nation's health-care safety net," study co-author Dr. Judd E. Hollander, of the University of Pennsylvania, said in a prepared statement.

"With the constant pressure to minimize health-care costs and frequent reimbursement changes that reduce funds for uncompensated care, it is critical that hospitals adopt interventions to more efficiently move admitted emergency department patients into inpatient beds. This would free up emergency department beds for incoming patients," Hollander said.

He and his colleagues studied 904 visits by people with chest pain to an urban emergency department and found that 91 percent of them waited more than three hours for a bed to become available.

The researchers also concluded that this delay in moving chest pain patients to hospital beds meant the hospital lost more than $168,000 in potential revenue each year. That's because the chest pain patients took up space in emergency department beds that could be used to treat incoming patients.

"If similar extended lengths of stay exist in the care of all admitted emergency department patients, the hospital may be losing more than $1.74 million in potential revenue each year," Hollander said.

"However, we believe this to be an underestimation, because our study did not include lost revenue from patients who left without being seen, patients in ambulances diverted to other emergency departments, or patients who avoided the emergency department based on the wait time or its wait time reputation," he said.

More information

The American College of Emergency Physicians has more about emergency department waiting times.

SOURCE: American College of Emergency Physicians, news release, Dec. 20, 2004
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