ACADEMIC EMERGENCY MEDICINE 2011; 18:1229–1233 © 2011 by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine
Emergency department (ED) crowding is a major public health problem in the United States, with increasing numbers of ED visits, longer lengths of stay in the ED, and the common practice of ED boarding. In the next several years, several measures of ED crowding will be assessed and reported on government websites. In addition, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), millions more Americans will have health care insurance, many of whom will choose the ED for their care. In June 2011, a consensus conference was conducted in Boston, Massachusetts, by the journal Academic Emergency Medicine entitled “Interventions to Assure Quality in the Crowded Emergency Department.” The overall goal of the conference was to develop a series of research agendas to identify promising interventions to safeguard the quality of emergency care during crowded periods and to reduce ED crowding altogether through systemwide solutions. This was achieved through three objectives: 1) a review of interventions that have been implemented to reduce crowding and summarize the evidence of their effectiveness on the delivery of emergency care; 2) to identify strategies within or outside of the health care setting (i.e., policy, engineering, operations management, system design) that may help reduce crowding or improve the quality of emergency care provided during episodes of ED crowding; and 3) to identify the most appropriate design and analytic techniques for rigorously evaluating ED interventions designed to reduce crowding or improve the quality of emergency care provided during episodes of ED crowding. This article describes the background and rationale for the conference and highlights some of the discussions that occurred on the day of the conference. A series of manuscripts on the details of the conference is presented in this issue of Academic Emergency Medicine.