From 1992 to 2002, the number of annual ED visits increased 23 percent in the U.S., while the number of EDs decreased by 15 percent. Many EDs are overwhelmed by the number of patients needing their services, with 62 percent of the nation's EDs reporting being "at" or "over" operating capacity. Almost daily, newspaper headlines across the country relay stories about patients waiting for hours in the ED before being seen and tales of ambulances being diverted from one hospital to the next due to overcrowding. But while much of the blame for this situation has been placed on broader social issues—such as increasing numbers of uninsured Americans and increasing reliance on the ED by those who are insured—many hospitals have done little to address the patient flow obstacles that lead to overcrowded EDs.
The Urgent Matters program, a national initiative of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has worked intensely to try to find solutions to this problem that may be applicable nationwide. Urgent Matters has a commitment to develop and spread patient flow best practices to America's hospitals.
Wilson, M. J. & Nguyen, K. (2004). Bursting at the seams: Improving patient flow to help America's emergency departments. Washington, D.C.: Urgent Matters, The George Washington University Medical Center, School of Public Health and Health Services, Department of Health Policy.