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When a study doesn’t show what you hoped for
  1. Ellen J Weber
  1. Emergency Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ellen J Weber, Emergency Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA;{at}

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One of the arguments often made for eliminating (or at least reducing) the length of time admitted patients spend in the ED waiting for an inpatient bed is that these ‘boarded’ patients are likely, among other undesirable outcomes, to have longer hospital lengths of stay. This argument has been one tactic emergency providers have tried to gain the attention of hospital leadership to do something about boarding. Longer lengths of stay mean fewer patients coming in and out, and this can threaten bottom lines, waiting lists, and targets.

Thus, one may read the article by Lane and colleagues1 with high hopes for additional evidence on the harms of boarding psychiatric patients. These authors look at whether long stays in the ED for psychiatric patients are likely to result in longer hospital stays. The answer is yes, a little. If a patient is boarded in an ED for 24 hours, their length of stay increases…wait for it…0.01 days. That is, 14.4 minutes.

This is a bitter pill for us emergency physicians to swallow, dashing hopes of further convincing our administrations of the need to address patient boarding, as if the discomfort and loss of privacy for patients, the risk of …

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  • Handling editor Richard Body

  • Contributors The editorial was conceived and written by the author.

  • Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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