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Emergency Department Throughput Toolbox Launches



View the ED Throughput Toolbox Profile and
Issue Brief, Case Study and Interview Excerpts






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. 

You can view a sample of a portion of this toolbox that includes the issue brief, a case study and two interviews here.

The New Emergency Department Throughput Toolbox Contains:



An Issue Brief and Executive Summary

“Emergency Department Throughput: Strategies to Improve Care Efficiency and Effectiveness,” an executive summary and issue brief, outlines ED metrics related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, innovative strategies to reduce crowding, minimize wait times, and maximize quality of care in the Emergency Department, and how the design of the built environment in the Emergency Department can best support these strategies for improved throughput.

Two 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.

  • “Exploring ED Planning and Design Strategies to Meet Current and Future Needs,” an interview with Frank Zilm, D.Arch, FAIA, FACHA, outlines some of the biggest logistical challenges impacting emergency care delivery, design strategies to address emergency department throughput, and ways that scenario planning can help healthcare organizations prepare for future ED volumes and needs.



Three Case Studies

  • “Maximize Space, Manage Volume, and Improve Communication in the Emergency Department” outlines methods to minimize patient wait times and maximize use of hospital space, guiding principles implemented in a Seattle children’s hospital to improve patient and provider communication, and how architects, healthcare providers, and families can collaborate to design a patient-centered emergency department.

  • “Urban Pediatric Hospital Emergency Department Takes a Unique Approach to Meet Patient Needs” highlights the unique ways that a pediatric replacement hospital leverages its small urban footprint to meet the high demand for ED services, why locating the emergency department on the second floor was the most efficient way to use limited space, and how a three-pod design enables the ED to flex at different times of day for varying levels of demand.

  • “Chair-Centric Waiting Area Addresses Emergency Department Throughput Challenges” explores evidence-based design solutions that address throughput challenges, the importance of aligning research design with organizational operations and processes for successful research, and the advantages of basing research methods on previous studies.



ED Throughput Strategies Considerations Checklist
This tool assists in planning and design efforts around throughput strategies in emergency department (ED) environments. 

Design Strategies 

While efficiency has always been a top priority for EDs, healthcare reform legislation has added to the pressure by requiring organizations to collect ED data associated with throughput. Organizations must strategize to minimize the total length of ED stay and boarding times for admitted patients. 

Lessons Learned

Compiled from research literature, case studies, interviews, and other materials to provide an overview on the topic of ED Throughput.

Two Blogs 

  • How to Create a Welcoming Emergency Department 

  • The Importance of Team in the ED


Related Resources

A list of resources is made of up of articles, books, policies, organizations, and more, related to ED Throughput. 


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