Analyses of 72-hour emergency department (ED) return visits are frequently used for quality assurance purposes and have been proposed as a means of measuring provider performance. These analyses have traditionally examined only patients returning to the same hospital as the initial visit. We use a health information exchange network to describe differences between ED visits resulting in 72-hour revisits to the same hospital and those resulting in revisits to a different site.Methods
We examined data from a 31-hospital health information exchange of all ED visits during a 5-year period to identify 72-hour return visits and collected available encounter, patient, and hospital variables. Next, we used multilevel analysis of encounter-level, patient-level, and hospital-level data to describe differences between initial ED visits resulting in different-site and same-site return visits.Results
We identified 12,621,159 patient visits to the 31 study EDs, including 841,259 same-site and 107,713 different-site return visits within 72 hours of initial ED presentation. We calculated odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the initial-visit characteristics’ predictive relationship that any return visit would be at a different site: daytime visit (OR 1.10; 95% CI 1.07 to 1.12), patient-hospital county concordance (OR 1.40; 95% CI 1.36 to 1.44), male sex (OR 1.27; 95% CI 1.24 to 1.30), aged 65 years or older (OR 0.55; 95% CI 0.53 to 0.57), sites with an ED residency (OR 0.41; 95% CI 0.40 to 0.43), sites at an academic hospital (OR 1.12; 95% CI 1.08 to 1.15), sites with high density of surrounding EDs (OR 1.73; 95% CI 1.68 to 1.77), and sites with a high frequency of same-site return visits (OR 0.10; 95% CI 0.10 to 0.11).Conclusion
This analysis describes how ED encounters with early revisits to the same hospital differ from those with revisits to a second hospital. These findings challenge the use of single-site return-visit frequency as a quality measure, and, more constructively, describe how hospitals can use health information exchange to more accurately identify early ED return visits and to support programs related to these revisits.