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A systematic mixed studies review of patient experiences in the ED


Background Understanding patient experiences is crucial to evaluating care quality in EDs. However, while previous reviews describe the determinants of ED patient experiences (ie, factors that influence patient experiences), few have described actual patient experiences. The aim of this systematic mixed studies review was to describe patient experiences in the ED from the patient’s perspective.

Methods Embase, Medline, ProQuest Nursing and Allied Health, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature and the Cochrane Library electronic databases were searched, with publication dates limited between 1 January 2001 and 16 September 2019. Studies describing adult patient experiences in the ED were included. Studies describing patient satisfaction, proxy-reported experiences or child/adolescent experiences were excluded. The quality of included studies was appraised using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool (2018 version). An inductive, convergent qualitative synthesis of the extracted data was undertaken following Thomas and Harden’s (2008) methods.

Results Fifty-four studies were included and of those, only five (9%) studies included a standardised definition of patient experience. Two inter-related themes emerged: Relationships between ED patients and care providers; and Spending time in the ED environment. The first theme included four subthemes regarding respect, communication, caring behaviours and optimising patient confidence. A key finding related to the potential for power imbalances between patients and their care providers. The second theme included two subthemes regarding physical aspects of the ED environment and patients’ waiting experience. Patients attributed more importance to the waiting experience itself rather than the duration they had to wait.

Conclusions Patients in the ED have unique and complex experiences. Greater research is needed to understand the relational and environmental factors that contribute to power imbalances between patients and care providers, how to support more positive waiting experiences, and developing a standardised definition of patient experience in the ED.

PROSPERO registration number CRD42020150154.

  • emergency department
  • interpersonal
  • quality

Data availability statement

There are no data in this work.

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