SURVEY: HOSPITAL OVERCROWDING ISSUES INCREASE OVER LAST YEAR, ACCORDING TO HEALTH CARE ORGANIZATION EXECUTIVES
PITTSBURGH, January 15, 2007 . A new survey of top hospital executives, administrators and managers across North America reports that seven out of every eight believe that overcrowding has failed to improve at their facilities in the last year. The overcrowding, according to a majority (60%) of more than 200 survey respondents, continues to force hospitals to divert patients needing urgent medical care to other facilities.
The survey, commissioned last month by TeleTracking Technologies and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), reports more than 80 percent of respondents say overcrowding is one of their top five management concerns. It also reveals that more than 70 percent of the administrators who responded say that while their facilities have a stated goal of admitting patients from their Emergency Department within two hours of arrival, almost half (48%) fail to meet that goal more than half the time.
"These survey results confirm what we have been seeing for several years in emergency departments nationwide," said Brian Keaton, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "Emergency department overcrowding is a problem for all of us. When hospitals go on diversion, which happens all too frequently in this country, patient care suffers."
The good news, according to the survey results, is that the executives and administrators say they are increasingly optimistic about their organizations' ability to manage the flow of patients through their hospital, to reduce overcrowding and manage costs. An overwhelming majority (94%) said they believe that technology, either by itself or in combination with changes in staff and processes, can reduce overcrowding.
"While the challenges facing health care organizations continue to grow, we are seeing positive signs that the organizations are working to bring those challenges under control," said Anthony Sanzo, Tele-Tracking's Chief Executive Officer. "An increased focus on ensuring that patient flow issues are aggressively addressed gives hospitals the ability to relieve overcrowding in a timely manner." Sanzo noted, however, that 57 percent of survey respondents said they are considering expanding bed capacity to relieve patient flow challenges, with a virtually identical number (58%) saying added capacity is either at the top or near the top of their priority list. "While there is no question that we will need increased capacity to meet the future needs of our healthcare system, technology-based solutions can lessen long-term capital expenditures and have an immediate positive impact on patient flow," Sanzo added.
Adding bed capacity through "brick and mortar" expansion can be especially costly for health care organizations, which consistently face financial challenges. By contrast, an Advisory Board study states that "a typical 300 bed hospital moving from the bottom quartile of Average Annual Bed Turns (annual admission divided by average staffed beds) to the top quartile in bed efficiency could yield 4,500 additional admissions and well over $10 million in revenue annually."
The survey also reveals that:
-28 percent of respondents said their organizations have had to postpone or cancel surgeries because of bed shortages; and
-80 percent of reporting organizations said they have a standing committee that addresses patient flow issues, underscoring its importance.
"I am continually amazed at the dedication and ingenuity of the people who run emergency departments across the country, said Dr. Keaton. "While individual hospitals can, and will, continue to improve their ability to meet growing patient demand, we as a country must make emergency medicine a greater priority in the national debate on health care and national security."
About TeleTracking Technologies
TeleTracking Technologies, based in Pittsburgh, is the leading producer of patient flow software solutions. Since TeleTracking launched the patient flow software automation industry more than 15 years ago, it has implemented over 1200 solutions at more than 650 acute care hospitals across the United States and Canada. For more information, visit www.teletracking.com, or call 800.331.3603.
About the American College of Emergency Physicians
ACEP is a national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine with more than 25,000 members. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.