The transfer of children from community emergency departments (EDs) to tertiary care pediatric EDs for investigations, interventions, or a second opinion is common. In order to improve health care system efficiency, we must have a better understanding of this population and identify areas for education and capacity building.Methods
We conducted a retrospective chart review of all patients (aged 0–17 years) who were transferred from community ED to a pediatric ED from November 2013 to November 2014. The primary outcome was the frequency of referred patients who were discharged home from the pediatric ED.Results
Two hundred four patients were transferred from community EDs in the study period. One hundred thirteen children (55.4%) were discharged home from the pediatric ED. Presence of inpatient pediatric services (P = 0.04) at the referral hospital and a respiratory diagnosis (P = 0.03) were independently associated with admission to the children’s hospital. In addition, 74 patients (36.5%) had no critically abnormal vital signs at the referral hospital and did not require any special tests, interventions, consultations, or admission to the children’s hospital. Younger age (P = 0.03), lack of inpatient pediatric services (P = 0.04), and a diagnosis change (P = 0.03) were independently associated with this outcome.Conclusions
More than half of patients transferred to the pediatric tertiary care ED did not require admission, and more than one third did not require special tests, interventions, consults, or admission. Many of these patients were likely transferred for a second opinion from a pediatric emergency medicine specialist. Education and real-time videoconferencing consultations using telemedicine may help to reduce the frequency of transfers for a second opinion and contribute to cost savings over the long term.