'Hallway medicine' may be key to ED crowding

Of late, hospitals have been redoubling their efforts to get patients out of their emergency departments quickly, in some cases by dispatching the less-sick patients to urgent care centers and clinics, and in others by charging an extra fee to patients who aren't truly in need of emergency assistance. The intent has been to ease crowding in their ED, which far too often fills to capacity and beyond, forcing caregivers to stay patients in the hallways.

However, a new study suggests that a new type of patient boarding may work better than stacking up patient beds in the ED. The study, which was conducted at Stony Brook Medical Center, has found that no harm comes from moving patients out of the ED and into hallways on the upper medical floors when they are ready for admission. Compare this to a study that found that 13 percent of emergency room doctors (out of the 1,500 surveyed) had experienced a patient dying because the patient was kept in the emergency room.

While such "hallway medicine" may not be much more appealing on clinical floors than it is in the ED, and certainly isn't the most comfortable way for the patient to enter the system, it does at least move patients closer to the specialized staff and facilities their conditions require. Meanwhile, it also helps unclog ED patient flow, which is helpful in and of itself. Sounds like a practice that may become more popular.

To learn more about the study:
- read this Associated Press piece