Length of time emergency department patients wait for a hospital bed after a decision to admit

Time from when it’s decided a patient will stay in the hospital to when they leave the emergency department to go to a hospital bed.

What do you see?

  • Are there any trends over time at the emergency department(s) where you work or would be most likely to visit?
  • Could the number of patients who visited each emergency department be a reason for the differences that you see between sites?

Whether you’re a patient, provider, or health system administrator, thinking about why these differences might exist can start conversations and lead to solutions for improved quality of healthcare.

*Data courtesy of Alberta Health Services

Understanding "length of time emergency department patients wait for a hospital bed after a decision to admit"

Not all Albertans who visit the emergency department are admitted to the hospital. Many patients receive treatment in emergency and are able to return home. If the medical team decides you need hospital care, you will be "admitted" to hospital, but often patients need to wait in the emergency department for a hospital bed to become available. Until then, you are considered an "admitted" patient even though your care is being delivered in the emergency department.

It is important to healthcare quality that patients receive their care in the right setting. This is why the length of time admitted patients wait in the emergency department is important to understand. Emergency departments are not intended to provide the same types of services as a hospital. They are set up to assess and treat patients and move them to an appropriate level of care - whether it is discharging them home with follow-up care instructions, or into the hospital for additional care, like a surgery. Services like meals and individual washrooms are not readily available in the emergency department. If patients who need to be in the hospital are continually waiting a long time in the emergency department for a hospital bed, it may be linked to hospital occupancy and there is an opportunity to ask why, and see if there are ways to improve the wait times.
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Results from May and June 2016 are not reported for the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre due to the forest fire that affected Fort McMurray and forced the closure of the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre.

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