Prevalence of Prolonged Length of Stay in an Emergency Department in Urban Denmark: A Retrospective Health Records Repository Review



      Prolonged length of stay in emergency departments is associated with increased hospitalization, hospital-acquired pressure ulcers, medication errors, and mortality. In acute admissions in Denmark in 2018, 67% of patients experienced waiting time from arrival to examination. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of prolonged length of stay (≥6 hours) and identify risk factors related to input, throughput, and output components.


      A retrospective health records repository review included 4743 patients admitted to a single urban emergency department in Denmark in January 2019. Data collected from the electronic health record system repository included demographic and organizational characteristics and were analyzed using descriptive statistics and logistic regression.


      Among patients admitted in the study period, 31% had a prolonged length of stay of ≥6 hours. Prolonged length of emergency department stay was associated with being female (male odds ratio [OR], 0.86; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.75-0.98), treatment by medical service (OR, 4.25, 95% CI, 3.63-4.98) vs surgical or injury, triage acuity of 2-Orange (OR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.18-1.78) or 3-Yellow (OR, 1.47; 95% CI, 1.23-1.75) on a 5-level scale, evening (OR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.24-1.66) or night (OR, 2.36; 95% CI, 1.91-2.91) arrival, ages 56 to 80 (OR, 1.79; 95% CI, 1.52-2.11) and >81 (OR, 2.40; 95% CI, 1.99-2.88) years, and hospital admission (OR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.04-1.38) vs discharge from the emergency department to home.


      Female, elderly, and medical patients were each identified as at-risk characteristics for ≥6-hour length of stay in the emergency department. Acute care patient pathways in the emergency department, particularly for evening and night, with guideline-based care and system level improvements in patient flow are warranted. Further research with larger populations is needed to identify and support interventions to decrease prolonged length of stay.

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      Agata Beczek is MSc, RN, Clinical Educator, Capital Region, Denmark.


      Marianne Vámosi is, PhD, MSc, RN, Associate Professor, at Institute of Public Health Nursing Science, Aarhus University, 2200 Copenhagen, Denmark.