Using systems theory terminology, a hospital’s emergency department can be described as a complex system. The emergency department receives inputs such as patients who need medical care, staff members, equipment, medications and other resources needed to deliver the best possible treatment. Throughput is the number of processes performed once the patient has arrived, such as triage, evaluation, diagnosis, therapy, discharge, or transfer. The outputs of these processes include reduced pain for the patient, improved patient’s health and stabilised conditions.
There are cycles that occur in the emergency room, such as the arrival of new patients and their departure, changes to the staffing, and a need for extra resources. The system will respond by increasing staffing levels, opening additional rooms or redirecting patients. This feedback loop allows for the system to adjust quickly and safely, while still maintaining high-quality care.
The emergency department is an example of a complex, dynamic system that includes inputs, outputs and cycles of events. It also has negative feedback loops. Understanding the systems theory will help improve healthcare processes, increase patient satisfaction, and deliver more effective and efficient care.