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The role of health and non-health-related factors in repeat emergency department visits in an elderly urban population

Abstract

Introduction Patients aged 65 years or older account for a growing proportion of emergency department (ED) repeat attendances. This study aimed to identify health and non-health factors associated with repeat ED attendance, defined as one or more visits in the previous 6 months in patients aged 65 years or older, and to examine the interaction between social and health factors.

Methods 306 patients were interviewed. Demographic, socioeconomic, physical, mental health and post-ED referrals were examined. Logistic regression was used to identify factors independently associated with a repeat ED visit, OR and 95% CI are presented. Log likelihood ratio tests were used to test for interactions.

Results ED revisits were reported by 37% of this elderly population. Independent risk factors for a repeat ED visit were previous hospital admission OR 3.78 (95% CI 2.53 to 5.65), anxiety OR 1.13 (95% CI 1.04 to 1.22), being part of a vulnerable social network OR 2.32 (95% CI 1.12 to 4.81), whereas a unit increase in physical inability as measured by the Nottingham Health Profile had a week association OR 1.01 (95% CI 1.00 to 1.02). There were no significant interactions between social networks and the other health-related variables (p>0.05). In patients directly discharged from ED, 48% (71/148) had no documented referrals made to community services, of which 18% (27/148) were repeat ED attendees.

Conclusion ED act as an important safety net for older people regardless of economic or demographic backgrounds. Appropriate assessment and referral are an essential part of this safety role.

  • Elderly
  • emergency care systems
  • emergency department
  • environmental medicine
  • imaging
  • repeat visit
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