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New research shows how hospitals can improve outcomes

Melbourne, Victoria, 16 May, 2016

New research shows how hospitals can improve outcomes for their patients

An article published in the latest issue of the Medical Journal of Australia provides, for the first time, strong evidence that improvements in admission processes through hospital emergency departments (EDs) leads to a decrease in patient deaths, according to the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM).

"This research demonstrates the very important role that highly trained emergency physicians play in our hospital system, ensuring patients flow through the ED receiving timely and appropriate care," said ACEM President Professor Anthony Lawler.

"Previous research has linked overcrowded and under-resourced EDs with increased patient deaths," Professor Lawler said, "This study helps close the loop, showing that improving hospital processes and increased compliance to access targets not only reduced the time patients spent in ED, but led to fewer patients dying."

"This paper also validates the significant role specialist emergency physicians play in delivering healthcare", added Dr David Rosengren, Chair, ACEM Queensland Faculty, "Emergency doctors have the professionalism, knowledge and commitment to implement time-based targets on the ground in a way that delivers real benefits for patients."

ACEM cautioned however, that access targets should not be considered in isolation of key quality measures.

"These access targets have been a significant catalyst for hospital process improvements," said Dr Rosengren. "However access targets are not an end in themselves. We need clinically meaningful and appropriate accountability measures, which also assess the quality of care that patients are receiving. This will help hospitals avoid unintended poor patient outcomes, and complement measures such as access targets."

While the national access target may have ceased, ACEM strongly encourages the States and Territories to consider this research, and how access targets – at the level of around 80% suggested in the paper – may be incorporated. Access targets for inpatient admissions and ED discharges should remain an important driver for improvements in delivery of acute care. Importantly, this must be done alongside additional quality care measures, to ensure that patients continue to receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

"At a time when hospitals are coming under increasing strain and many of our emergency departments are blocked, it’s vital that resources flow towards measures that have been shown to have worked," Professor Lawler said, "I call on States and Territories to support the use of access targets and incorporate them into the suite of strategies used to address overcrowding and improve the standard of care in our emergency departments."


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