An evaluation of home hospital care impacts on emergency department boarding using simulation
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The hospital emergency department (ED) is a critical source for health care amid a complex healthcare system in the United States. It is the gateway to care for a broad range of people, arriving from a variety of locations. With this wide reaching net and a decreasing trend in hospital beds, EDs throughout the United States are experiencing overcrowding. ED crowding has various tactical and strategic facility management impacts ranging from facility occupancy issues to adverse health outcomes. Among other factors, recent research has cited the sharp increase in ED visits over the years and ED patient boarding as key contributors to crowding. Home hospital care is a model in which health care is delivered at an individual’s home as a substitute for hospital-level inpatient short-term acute care. Clinical research has shown home hospital to be an effective care model for select illnesses presenting frequently to EDs, such as congestive heart failure, community acquired pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cellulitis. While there exist distinct clinical and social criteria for which delineate eligible individuals, home hospital care models have been linked with the potential to free inpatient beds. The overarching objective of this study is to investigate the relationship between home hospital care and ED crowding. To achieve this objective, the study examined the relationship between home hospital care and ED crowding, specific to ED boarding performance at a large, urban, teaching hospital facility. A methodology for identification of potential home hospital patients was used through clinical and social criteria, and a scale for the range of clinical eligibility rates was established for the five suitable illnesses. The study modeled patient flow and bed demand, and utilized computer simulation modeling to assess the impact of home hospital care on ED boarding performance. Various models were simulated to represent different home hospital intervention types. The models incorporated home hospital through an ED Referral program, Inpatient-Transfer Referral program, Community Referral program, and a fully integrated home hospital program. Three scenarios were run for each model to assess practical possibilities for the utilization of the freed bed hours from a home hospital program. This research contributes insight and understanding of home hospital’s impacts on ED crowding. The insight from this study quantifies the effects of a home hospital program on ED boarding and inpatient bed demand. The modeling study is contributes an analytical understanding of the impacts that home hospital could potentially have on crowding, which could prove useful in the struggle against ED congestion. This understanding helps to provide a more thorough understanding of home hospital, and could aid in an organization’s decision-making process of whether to implement a program. The presented modeling methodology for analyzing home hospital and ED crowding can also be used as a model format for researchers and practitioners for analytical purposes in future studies.