Potential Impact of Linking an Emergency Department and Hospital-Affiliated Clinics to Immunize Pre-School-Age Children.

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Abstract

Design

A retrospective cohort study of two groups: (1) 100 consecutive children (ED group) enrolled at one of two hospital-affiliated primary care clinics were chosen from the ED patient logs if their second birthday occurred in the 12 months prior to November 1990; and (2) 91 age-matched control children (control group) were chosen at random from the same hospital-affiliated clinics' enrollment logs without regard to ED use. The health care provided during the first 2 years of life for each group was compared.

Results

The mean number of visits to the ED in the first 2 years of life by the ED group was significantly greater than that of the control group (2.9 (SD) +-/2.5 vs 1.1 +-/1.4; P < .001) during the first 2 years of life. In 67% of ED visits, children would have been well enough to receive a vaccination. Both groups had similar types and numbers of visits to the primary clinics. For example, the ED group had 10 +-/5 visits by age 2 years compared with the control group, which had 9 +-/4 visits. There was no significant difference in actual immunization percentages achieved in the clinic, with 62% of the ED group having received four diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus vaccinations; three oral poliovirus vaccinations; and one measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination by age 2 compared with 69% of control children. There were more missed vaccination opportunities during clinic visits in the ED group (7.4 vs 4.6 per 100 clinic visits; P < .01). If immunizations were offered in the ED to those children who needed them, immunization percentages would have been increased an average of 20% compared with percentages achieved in the clinic alone.

Conclusion

Routine vaccinations in the ED would significantly increase immunization percentages in children enrolled in two hospital-affiliated clinics. Close linkage and coordination between the ED and hospital-affiliated clinics may improve preventive health care in urban children who use EDs. Pediatrics 1994;93:99-103; preschool immunizations, emergency department, missed opportunities, vaccinations.

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