INTRODUCTION: Globally, length of stay of patients in emergency departments remains a challenge. Remaining in the
emergency department for >12 h increases health care costs, morbidity and mortality rates and leads to
crowding and lower patient satisfaction.
The aim of this research was to describe the areas of delay related to prolonged length of stay in the emergency
department of an academic hospital.
METHODS: A quantitative retrospective study was done. The Input-Throughput-Output model was used to identify
the areas of patients’ journey through the emergency department. The possible areas of delay where then
described. Using systematic sampling, a total of 100 patient files managed in an emergency department of an
academic hospital in South Africa were audited over a period of 3 months. Descriptive statistics and regression
analysis was used to analyse data.
RESULTS: The mean length of stay of patients in the emergency department was 73 h 49 min. The length of stay per
phase was: input (3 h 17 min), throughput (16 h 25 min) and output (54 h 7 min). A strong significant relationship found between the length of stay and the time taken between disposition decision (throughput phase)
disposition decision to admission or discharge of patients from the ED (output phase) (p < 0.05).
CONCLUSION: The output phase was identified as the longest area of delay in this study, with the time taken between disposition decision to admission or discharge of patients from the ED (patients waiting for inpatient beds)
as the main significant area of delay.