Characteristics and patient impact of boarding in the pediatric emergency department, 2018-2022.

Publication date: Mar 01, 2024

Boarding admitted patients in the emergency department is an important cause of throughput delays and safety risks in adults, though has been less studied in children. We assessed changes in boarding in a pediatric ED (PED) from 2018 to 2022 and modeled associations between boarding and select quality metrics. We performed a retrospective analysis of PED patients admitted to non-psychiatric services, broken into four periods: pre-COVID-19 (Period I, 01/2018-02/2020), early pandemic (II, 03/2020-06/2021), COVID-19 variants (III, 07/2021-06/2022), and non-COVID respiratory viruses (IV, 07/2022-12/2022). Patients were classified as critical (intensive care units (ICU)) or acute care (non-ICU inpatient services) based on their initial bed request. We compared median boarding times with Kruskal-Wallis tests. We assessed the relationship between boarding time and hospital length-of-stay (LOS) through hazard regression models, and the association between boarding time and PED return visit, readmission, and patient safety events through adjusted logistic regressions. Median PED boarding time significantly increased from Period I (acute: 2. 4 h; critical: 3. 0 h) to Period II (acute: 3. 0 h, critical: 4. 0 h) to Period III (acute: 4. 4 h, critical: 6. 6 h) to Period IV (acute: 6. 2 h; critical: 9. 5 h). On survival analysis, as boarding time increased, hospital LOS increased for acute admissions and decreased for critical admissions. Increased acute care boarding time was associated with higher odds of a filed safety report. Since July 2021, PED boarding time increased for admitted children across acute and critical admissions. The relationship between acute care boarding and longer hospital LOS suggests a resource-inefficient, self-perpetuating cycle that demands multi-disciplinary solutions.

Concepts Keywords
Bed Boarding
July Crowding
Models Health services
Psychiatric Length-of-stay
Pediatric emergency department


Type Source Name
disease MESH emergency
disease IDO quality
disease MESH COVID-19
disease VO Viruses
disease VO time
disease VO report
disease VO inefficient

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