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Influence of bedspacing on outcomes of hospitalized medicine service patients: A retrospective cohort study

British Medical Journal Quality & Safety January 19, 2021

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Research Areas


BACKGROUND: Specialty wards cohort hospitalised patients to improve outcomes and lower costs. When demand exceeds capacity, patients overflow and are “bedspaced” to alternate wards. Some studies have demonstrated that bedspacing among medicine service patients is associated with adverse patient-centred outcomes, however, results have been inconsistent and have primarily been performed within national health systems. The objective of this study was to assess the association of bedspacing with patient-centred outcomes among United States patients admitted to general medicine services.

METHODS: We performed a retrospective cohort study of internal medicine, family medicine and geriatric service patients who were bedspaced vs cohorted for the entirety of their hospital stay within three large, urban United States hospitals (quaternary referral centre, tertiary referral centre and community hospital, with different patient demographics and case-mixes) in 2014 and 2015. We performed quantile regression to determine differences in length of stay (LOS) between bedspaced vs cohorted patients and logistic regression for in-hospital mortality and discharge to home.

RESULTS: Among 18 802 patients in 33 wards, 6119 (33%) patients were bedspaced. Bedspaced patients had significantly longer LOS compared with cohorted patients at the 25th (0.1 days, 95% CI: 0.05 to 0.2, p=0.001), 50th (0.2 days, 95% CI: 0.1 to 0.3, p=0.003) and 75th (0.3 days, 95% CI: 0.2 to 0.5, p<0.001) percentiles; and no statistically significant differences in odds of mortality (OR=0.9, 95% CI: 0.6 to 1.3, p=0.5) or discharge to home (OR=0.9, 95% CI: 0.9 to 1.0, p=0.06) in adjusted analyses.

CONCLUSION: Bedspacing is associated with adverse patient-centred outcomes. Future work is needed to confirm these findings, understand mechanisms contributing to adverse outcomes and identify factors that mitigate these adverse effects in order to provide high-value, patient-centred care to hospitalised patients.


National Heart, Lung,and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Agency for Healthcare Research Quality (AHRQ)
National Instiute of Aging (NIA)