Patients who leave the emergency department against medical advice are at high risk for complications. Against medical advice (AMA) discharges are also considered high-risk events potentially leading to malpractice litigation.
Our aim was to characterize patients who leave AMA in a payment prior to service emergency department (ED) model and to identify predictors for return visits to ED after leaving AMA.
We conducted a retrospective review study of charts of ED patients who were discharged AMA between January 1, 2012 and January 1, 2013 at a tertiary care center in Beirut Lebanon. We carried out a descriptive analysis and a bivariate analysis comparing AMA patients without and with return visit within 72 hours. This was followed by a Logistic regression to identify predictors of return visits after leaving AMA.
A total of 1213 ED patients were discharged AMA during the study period. Mean age was 46.9 years (±20.9). There were 654 men (53.9%), 737 married (60.8%). The majority (1059 patients (87.3%)) had an emergency severity index of 3 or less (1 or 2). ED average length of stay was 3.8 hours (±6.8). Self payers accounted for 53.9%. Reasons for leaving AMA were: no reason mentioned (44.1%), incomplete workup (30.5%), refusing admission (12.4%), financial reasons (7.9%), long wait times (2.9%), and others (2.2%). Discharge diagnoses were mainly cardiac (23.4%), gastrointestinal (16.4%), infectious (10.1%), and trauma (9.8%).
One hundred nineteen returned to ED within 72 hours (9.8%). Predictors of returning to ED after leaving AMA were: older age (OR 1.02 95% CI (1.01–1.03)), private insurance status (OR 4.64 95% (CI 2.89–7.47) within network insurance status (OR 7.20 95% CI (3.86–13.44), longer ED length of stay during the first visit (OR 1.03 95% CI (1.01–1.05).
In our setting, the rate of return visit to ED after leaving AMA was 9.8%. Reasons for leaving AMA, high-risk discharge diagnoses and predictors of return visit were identified. Financial status was a strong predictor of return to ED after leaving AMA.