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Emergency Department Throughput Toolbox



Today’s hospitals and their staffs are overwhelmed with an influx of patients; overcrowding and long wait times continue to be problematic as hospitals struggle to get patients in and out of the emergency department. Using creative strategies to design flexibility into the built environment, hospital emergency departments can optimize operations and improve throughput while continuing to put the patient first.  

To assist healthcare organizations, designers, suppliers and others involved in the planning, design, construction and operation of emergency departments, The Center has created a program toolbox on Emergency Department Throughput, containing a library of newly-created and Center staff-curated content – research findings, expert insights, strategies, tools and other useful resources. 


The Emergency Department Throughput Toolbox Contains:



An Issue Brief and Executive Summary

  • "Emergency Departments: Strategies to Improve Care Efficiency and Effectiveness", in this issue brief and executive summary you will learn about ED metrics related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, innovative strategies to reduce crowding, minimize wait times, and maximize care quality in the Emergency Department, and how the design of the built environment in the Emergency Department can best support strategies for improved throughput.

Three Interviews


  • “Exploring Emergency Department Trends and Best Practices to Improve Throughput,” an interview with James Augustine, MD, FACEP, explores how the aging of the population contributes to overcrowding in EDs today, why some hospitals are creating ED areas specifically for seniors with enhanced lighting, non-slip flooring, and other safety features, the need for Clinical Decision Units to provide a place for emergency patients who require a longer stay in order to free up space in the ED, the challenges behavioral health and chemical dependency patients pose to EDs, and how best to address these issues.
  • "How Strategic Design Choices Are Improving Emergency Department Throughput", an interview with Joanne McDonough, MD, PhD, explores Ellis Medicine's struggle to service a higher ED volume after two local hospitals closed their doors, why the new ED was intially unable to meet the high patient demand, how a transitional unit, a split-flow model, and other strategic design choices ultimately helped improve ED throughput. 



Three Project Briefs 



  • ED Throughput Strategies Considerations Checklist, this tool provides healthcare designers and professionals with ED throughput principles/goals and how environmental, operational, and people measures can be implemented to achieve said goal. Download the tool by clicking the purple bar above.


Design Strategies 

Lessons Learned

Two Blogs 


Related Resources

  • Emergency Department Related Resources, this list of resources is made of up of articles, books, policies, organizations, and more, related to the emergency department. Use this list to learn more about this topic.


Click here to view Emergency Department Throughput Toolbox resources that are free to all
Click here to view Emergency Department Throughput Toolbox resources available only to Affiliate+ members*

* Want to learn how to become an Affiliate+ member?  

Contact Lynn Kenney, lkenney@healthdesign.org