In today’s increasingly strained health care environment, hospital emergency departments (EDs) provide a critical primary and emergency care safety net for virtually every American. Yet over the last decade, studies have deemed the country’s EDs to be at a breaking point, weighed down by overcrowding and poor patient flow as volumes have increased, while at the same time, capacity has decreased.
Yet as hospitals and EDs seek solutions to these vexing issues they are stymied by the lack of a universally followed set of ED performance metrics that could give them the critical knowledge needed to better understand and manage their operations. Unlike other clinical areas, such as cardiac care, that have performance measures covering the full continuum of a patient’s journey through the health care system, EDs do not, which is why the recently completed Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Urgent Matters Learning Network II (LN II) initiative hospitals took the lead in being the first-ever in the U.S. to field-test ED standard performance measures.
This issue brief highlights the pioneering work of Urgent Matters and the large-scale potential impact of its success in this nascent field in facilitating the development of performance benchmarks, improving consumer decision-making and stimulating the sharing of quality improvement strategies that work.