Improving Quality of Patient Care in an Emergency Department: A Laboratory Perspective

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The purpose of our study was to improve the quality of care in an emergency department (ED) as measured by length of stay (LOS), total turnaround time (TAT) for laboratory result reporting, and the blood culture contamination rate. Data were included for patients who had at least 1 of 5 laboratory tests performed as part of their care. The study was conducted in 2 phases. First, phlebotomy was performed by a dedicated phlebotomist or nonlaboratory personnel. The second phase added a dedicated laboratory technologist. There was a significant reduction in total TAT for all tests (at least 46 and 75 minutes in the respective interventions), and blood culture contamination rates dropped from 5.0% to 1.1%, although the overall LOS did not change. Estimated cost avoidance is more than $400,000 annually. Quality of care in an ED is improved when samples are collected by a dedicated phlebotomist, but overall LOS does not change.

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