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Study Suggests Point System To Eliminate ‘Hallway Medicine’ In Hospitals

A recent study suggests mathematics hold the answers to improve hospital wait times and eliminate “hallway medicine.”

Western University professor David Stanford from, as well as co-authors Na Li and Azaz Sharif, are publishing a study which proposes a new system that tracks how patients are doing based on their current condition.  The new method would allow the patients to accumulate “priority points” while they wait, which would assist physicians to decide who to see next.

Sandford said the point system detailed in the study could be implemented easily by adding an additional field to emergency department inpatient dashboards.

“This approach would basically serve as a tie-breaker,” said Stanford in a news release. “It can also minimize an even bigger issue in that hospital wards are almost always full, which blocks patients being transferred out of emergency departments and hospital hallways.”

According to a report released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, only 9.2% of urgent patients were seen by a doctor within 30 minutes of their arrival between 2012 and 2013.  Sandford said he predicts that wait times have also worsened since then due to the country’s aging population.

The study reveals that current emergency room staffing policies, which do an accounting-style estimation of expected patient volume, are inadequate because there is no consistency.

“The current targets are unachievable not only because of limited resources, funds or personnel but because the way we’re calculating physician hours needed is not realistic in terms of patient flow and the varying levels of trauma that come to Canadian emergency rooms,” said Stanford. “The current model reflects a lack of understanding of basic queueing principles, which we fully explain in this study.”

The study will be published in the European Journal of Operational Research.