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Implementation of clinical practices to reduce return visits within 72 h to a paediatric emergency department


Objective Return visits to the paediatric emergency department (PED) are an important measure of quality of healthcare and are associated with patients’ and parents’/guardians’ satisfaction. Previous studies have been limited to describing characteristics and factors related to return visits. The objectives of this study were to develop new clinical practices to reduce return visits to the PED and to see whether implementation of these practices had the desired effect.

Patients and methods This was a controlled before-and-after study. New clinical practices were developed by analysing data for patients visiting in 2011 (before) and by surveying emergency physicians and nurses in the PED. New clinical practices were implemented between 16 July and 4 November 2012 (after). The rate of return visits and admission rates after return visits were compared between matched periods in 2011 and 2012. We also investigated return visits at three independent hospitals to overcome the limitation of the intervention application to a single hospital.

Results The new clinical practices included five protocols: set orders for common symptoms; management plans for patients at high risk of a return visit; a daily physician feedback system; protocolised discharge instructions; early planned visits to clinics. After implementation, the rate of return visits was reduced significantly, from 4.4% to 2.6% (p<0.01). The admission rate for return visits was also reduced, but not significantly so, from 22.3% to 17.5% (p=0.37). Return visits at the other hospitals were similar or significantly increased in 2012 compared with 2011.

Conclusions The development and implementation of clinical practices were effective in reducing return visits of paediatric patients to the ED.

  • Paediatrics
  • Quality Assurance
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