Objective: To identify and prioritize potential Emergency Department (ED) and hospital-based interventions which could mitigate the impact of crowding during patient surge from a widespread infectious respiratory disease outbreak and determine potential data sources that may be useful for triggering decisions to implement these high priority interventions.
Design: Expert panel utilizing Nominal Group Technique to identify and prioritize interventions, and in addition, determine appropriate “triggers” for implementation of the high priority interventions in the context of four different infectious respiratory disease scenarios that vary by patient volumes (high versus low) and illness severity (high versus low).
Setting: One day in-person conference held November, 2011.
Participants: Regional and national experts representing the fields of public health, disease surveillance, clinical medicine, ED operations, and hospital operations.
Main Outcome Measure: Prioritized list of potential interventions to reduce ED and hospital crowding, respectively. In addition, we created a prioritized list of potential data sources which could be useful to trigger interventions.
Results: High priority interventions to mitigate ED surge included standardizing admission and discharge criteria and instituting infection control measures. To mitigate hospital crowding, panelists prioritized mandatory vaccination and an algorithm for antiviral use. Data sources identified for triggering implementation of these interventions were most commonly ED and hospital utilization metrics.
Conclusions: We developed a prioritized list of potentially useful interventions to mitigate ED and hospital crowding in various outbreak scenarios. The data sources identified to “trigger” the implementation of these high priority interventions consist mainly of sources available at the local, institutional level.