Health care utilization before and after an outpatient ED visit in older people

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Abstract

Background

Older adults in the United States receive a significant amount of care in the emergency department (ED), yet the associations between ED and other types of health care utilization have not been adequately studied in this population.

Objectives

The goals of this study were to examine the relationships between health care use before and after an ED visit among older adults.

Methods

This retrospective cohort study examined health care use among 308 patients 65 years or older discharged from a university-affiliated ED. Proportional-hazards models were used to assess the relationship between pre-ED health care use (primary care physician [PCP], specialist, ED, and hospital) and risk of return ED visits.

Results

Older ED patients in this study had visited other types of providers frequently in the previous year (median number of PCP and specialist visits, 4). Patients who used the ED on 2 or more occasions in the previous year were found to have visited their PCP more often than those without frequent ED use (median number of visits, 7.0 vs 4.0; P < .001). Despite more PCP use in this population, frequent ED use was associated with increased risk of a repeat ED visit (hazard ratio, 2.20; 95% confidence interval, 1.15-4.21), in models adjusted for demographics and health status.

Conclusion

Older adults who use the ED are also receiving significant amounts of care from other sources; simply providing additional access to care may not improve outcomes for these vulnerable individuals.

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