The ED as the primary source of hospital admission for older (but not younger) adults

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Abstract

Introduction:

The elderly population in the United States is growing. This age shift has important implications for emergency departments (EDs), which currently account for more than 50% of inpatient hospitalizations. Our objective was to compare the percentage of inpatient admissions starting in the ED between elderly and younger patients.

Methods:

We conducted a retrospective analysis using the National Hospital Discharge Survey. Source of admission to the hospital was evaluated for years 2003 to 2009. Total admissions from the ED and trends over time were analyzed for the following age groups: 22 to 64, 65 to 74, 75 to 84, and 85 + years old. Likelihood of having been admitted from the ED was evaluated with logistic regression.

Results:

A total of 1.7 million survey visits representing 216 million adult hospitalizations were analyzed. A total of 93 million (43.2%) were among patients 65 years and older. The ED was the source of admission for 57.3% of patients 65 years and older and 44.4% of patients 64 years and younger (95% confidence interval difference, 12.97%-13.00%). By 2009, more than 75% of nonelective admissions for patients 85 years and older were through the ED. There was a linear relationship between age and the ED as the source of admission, the odds increasing by 2.9% per year (95% confidence interval, 1.029-1.029) for each year beyond age 65 years.

Conclusion:

Emergency departments are increasingly used as the gateway for hospital admission for older adults. An aging US population may increase the effect of this trend, a prospect that should be planned for. From the patient perspective, barriers to care contributing to the age-based discrepancy in the use of the ED as source of admission should be investigated.

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