International Journal of Critical Illness and Injury Science

: 2022  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 119--120

What's new in critical illness and injury science? Resource allocation and very short intensive care unit stays

Andrew C Miller 
 Department of Emergency Medicine, Alton Memorial Hospital, Alton, IL, USA

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Andrew C Miller
Department of Emergency Medicine, Alton Memorial Hospital, 1 Memorial Dr, Alton, IL 62002

How to cite this article:
Miller AC. What's new in critical illness and injury science? Resource allocation and very short intensive care unit stays.Int J Crit Illn Inj Sci 2022;12:119-120

How to cite this URL:
Miller AC. What's new in critical illness and injury science? Resource allocation and very short intensive care unit stays. Int J Crit Illn Inj Sci [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Jan 29 ];12:119-120
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Appropriate and optimal allocation of limited resources remains a concern for intensive care units (ICU). Early appropriate referral of patients to an ICU can significantly reduce morbidity and mortality.[1],[2],[3],[4] One great challenge of critical care has been to accurately identify those patients who would (and would not) benefit from the resources available in an ICU setting to optimize resource utilization and delivery of care. In many settings, the requests for ICU beds surpass availability. Improper or inefficient selection of patients for ICU beds may block others from benefiting from this resource and may have ripple effects that adversely impact the hospital dynamics of the larger health-care system. Beyond blocking other admissions from within the hospital or from the emergency department, inefficient bed, and resource utilization may even compromise patients at other hospitals by blocking transfer of patients requiring a higher level of care than is offered at their current locale. In addition, lack of available beds may result in the cancellation of scheduled elective surgeries that require postoperative ICU monitoring with additional downstream consequences including higher idle operating room time, underutilization of personnel, and prolongation of waiting lists.[5] These delays in care may further expose patients to unnecessary morbidity or mortality.

Whereas considerable research has assessed long-stay patients, evidence regarding short-stay patients is lacking. Studies report that up to one-third of ICU admissions are short-stay.[5],[6] There are many challenges when studying the short ICU stay population. Foremost is defining the parameters of what signifies a short stay, as studies range from <24 h to <8 days.[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10] Moreover, this population is composed of a heterogeneous patient mix, and they are often excluded from outcome studies.[5] This group includes both low-risk (e.g., postoperative monitoring) and high-risk patients, many of whom do not survive their ICU stay.[5] Nearly 30% of the short-stay patients have a 1-day overall hospital length-of-stay.[6] Some of this is because of younger patients with a lower risk of death admitted for postoperative monitoring,[7] but also contributing are due to futile high acuity cases with poor prognosis and no meaningful hope of recovery who are identified by intensivists and designated with a do not resuscitate (DNR) status (often within hours of admission).[5] For both sets of patients, one may consider whether the ICU was the optimal location for their care. For example, routine lower-risk postoperative patients wh.,o are unlikely to require any ICU-specific interventions (e.g., mechanical ventilation), may conceivably be cared for by an appropriately trained intermediate care unit.[7] Alternatively, for higher acuity or futile cases, providers may be more aggressive about discussing goals of care with patients, their families, and surrogates to more rapidly identify those very high acuity patients who opt for DNR status, or for whom life-supporting measures will be withdrawn, or goals of care transitioned to comfort measures. The goals of care for such patients may similarly be accomplished outside of an ICU setting. The timing of writing DNR orders has been associated with shortening needed hospital and ICU care, as well as affecting significant reductions in resources utilized,[11] and systems may benefit from earlier discussions thereby allowing them to maintain patient dignity and meet expectations and goals of care while utilizing hospital resources more efficiently.

In this issue of the International Journal of Critical Illness and Injury Science, Pandit et al.[12] assessed the characteristics and outcomes of short-stay (<24 h) ICU patients at a tertiary care academic medical center in the United States. Their work highlights that despite the patient's lower illness severity and fewer ICU-level care needs, short-stay patients spend an equally substantial amount of time occupying an ICU bed while waiting for a floor bed as nonshort-stay patients. This further highlights the importance of ICU triage assessments and raises questions for opportunities for improved resource allocation and throughput. Examples may include the generation of short-stay units, more aggressive clarification of goals of care and DNR status before ICU transfer, and logistical and operations approaches to speed bed turnaround times when a patient is ready for ICU (or hospital) discharge.

Research quality and ethics statement

This report was exempt from the requirement of approval by the Institutional Review Board/Ethics Committee. The authors followed applicable EQUATOR Network ( guidelines, however, no specific guideline is available for editorials.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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