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Patient Acuity

What is patient acuity?

Patient acuity refers to the severity of an illness or medical condition. It is often used to designate which clients should be seen first. For example, a high-acuity patient is one who is severely ill and should receive care before others.

However, there is no standard definition of what qualifies a patient for low or high acuity, and designations are often determined by hospitals or health systems.

Some elements that factor into a patient’s acuity level include:

  • Oxygen levels
  • Pain
  • Blood pressure
  • Overall stability

In general, the more monitoring a patient requires, the higher their acuity.

How can hospitals and clinics use patient acuity to improve healthcare?

Many electronic health records (EHRs) take into account patient acuity to capture and then prioritize patient needs. This improves patient care, as it ensures the patients who require the most urgent attention are properly attended to in a timely manner.

Another application of patient acuity is acuity-based staffing, an operations strategy in which facilities are staffed according to average patient acuity levels. This ensures resources are directed to the facilities that need them most, supporting better patient outcomes while reducing unnecessary spending.