Implementing Data Definition Consistency for Emergency Department Operations Benchmarking and Research

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The objective was to obtain a commitment to adopt a common set of definitions for emergency department (ED) demographic, clinical process, and performance metrics among the ED Benchmarking Alliance (EDBA), ED Operations Study Group (EDOSG), and Academy of Academic Administrators of Emergency Medicine (AAAEM) by 2017.


A retrospective cross-sectional analysis of available data from three ED operations benchmarking organizations supported a negotiation to use a set of common metrics with identical definitions. During a 1.5-day meeting—structured according to social change theories of information exchange, self-interest, and interdependence—common definitions were identified and negotiated using the EDBA's published definitions as a start for discussion. Methods of process analysis theory were used in the 8 weeks following the meeting to achieve official consensus on definitions. These two lists were submitted to the organizations’ leadership for implementation approval.


A total of 374 unique measures were identified, of which 57 (15%) were shared by at least two organizations. Fourteen (4%) were common to all three organizations. In addition to agreement on definitions for the 14 measures used by all three organizations, agreement was reached on universal definitions for 17 of the 57 measures shared by at least two organizations. The negotiation outcome was a list of 31 measures with universal definitions to be adopted by each organization by 2017.


The use of negotiation, social change, and process analysis theories achieved the adoption of universal definitions among the EDBA, EDOSG, and AAAEM. This will impact performance benchmarking for nearly half of US EDs. It initiates a formal commitment to utilize standardized metrics, and it transitions consistency in reporting ED operations metrics from consensus to implementation. This work advances our ability to more accurately characterize variation in ED care delivery models, resource utilization, and performance. In addition, it permits future aggregation of these three data sets, thus facilitating the creation of more robust ED operations research data sets unified by a universal language. Negotiation, social change, and process analysis principles can be used to advance the adoption of additional definitions.

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