Emergency department (ED) crowding has become a major barrier to receiving timely emergency care in the United States. Despite widespread recognition of the problem, the research and policy agendas needed to understand and address ED crowding are just beginning to unfold. The authors present a conceptual model of ED crowding to help researchers, administrators, and policymakers understand its causes and develop potential solutions. The conceptual model partitions ED crowding into 3 interdependent components: input, throughput, and output. These components exist within an acute care system that is characterized by the delivery of unscheduled care. The goal of the conceptual model is to provide a practical framework on which an organized research, policy, and operations management agenda can be based to alleviate ED crowding.
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