Background: Older adults who are discharged from the emergency department (ED) may be at risk for subsequent adverse outcomes; however, this has not been fully investigated in national, population-based samples. The goal of this study was to determine the frequency and predictors of adverse outcomes among older adults discharged from the ED.
Design: Secondary analysis of data from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey.
Subjects: A total of 1851 community-dwelling, Medicare fee-for-service enrollees, ≥65 years old who were discharged from the ED between January 2000 and September 2002.
Measures: The primary dependent variable was time to first adverse outcome defined as any repeat outpatient ED visit, hospital admission, nursing home admission or death within 90 days of the index ED visit.
Results: Six hundred twenty-three of 1851 subjects (32.9%) discharged from the ED experienced an adverse outcome within 90 days of the index visit; 17.2% returned to the ED but were not admitted, 18.3% were hospitalized, 2.6% were admitted to a nursing home, and 4.1% died. Patients who were older [hazard ratios (HR), 1.01; confidence interval (CI), 1.00–1.02], with more chronic health conditions (HR, 1.12; CI, 1.07–1.19), Medicaid insurance (HR, 1.42; CI, 1.11–1.82), and recent ED (HR, 1.46; CI, 1.17–1.82) or hospital use (HR, 1.80; CI, 1.50–2.17) were at particularly high risk.
Conclusions: A substantial proportion of older Medicare beneficiaries in this study experienced an adverse outcome after ED discharge. Further study is needed to determine whether simple prediction tools based on these identified risk factors may be useful in predicting adverse outcomes in this vulnerable population.