The Impact of Hospital Capacity Strain: a Qualitative Analysis of Experience and Solutions at 13 Academic Medical Centers

Link to article at PubMed

J Gen Intern Med. 2021 Dec 13. doi: 10.1007/s11606-021-07106-8. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Hospital capacity strain impacts quality of care and hospital throughput and may also impact the well being of clinical staff and teams as well as their ability to do their job. Institutions have implemented a wide array of tactics to help manage hospital capacity strain with variable success.

OBJECTIVE: Through qualitative interviews, our study explored interventions used to address hospital capacity strain and the perceived impact of these interventions, as well as how hospital capacity strain impacts patients, the workforce, and other institutional priorities.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Qualitative study utilizing semi-structured interviews at 13 large urban academic medical centers across the USA from June 21, 2019, to August 22, 2019 (pre-COVID-19). Interviews were recorded, professionally transcribed verbatim, coded, and then analyzed using a mixed inductive and deductive method at the semantic level.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Themes and subthemes of semi-structured interviews were identified.

RESULTS: Twenty-nine hospitalist leaders and hospital leaders were interviewed. Across the 13 sites, a multitude of provider, care team, and institutional tactics were implemented with perceived variable success. While there was some agreement between hospitalist leaders and hospital leaders, there was also some disagreement about the perceived successes of the various tactics deployed. We found three main themes: (1) hospital capacity strain is complex and difficult to predict, (2) the interventions that were perceived to have worked the best when facing strain were to ensure appropriate resources; however, less costly solutions were often deployed and this may lead to unanticipated negative consequences, and (3) hospital capacity strain and the tactics deployed may negatively impact the workforce and can lead to conflict.

CONCLUSIONS: While institutions have employed many different tactics to manage hospital capacity strain and see this as a priority, tactics seen as having the highest yield are often not the first employed.

PMID:34902096 | DOI:10.1007/s11606-021-07106-8

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