A small fraction of patients use a disproportionately large amount of emergency department (ED) resources. Identifying these patients, especially those with ambulatory care sensitive conditions (ACSC), would allow health care professionals to enhance their outpatient care.
The objectives of the study were to determine predictive factors associated with frequent ED use in a Quebec adult population with ACSCs and to compare several models predicting the risk of becoming an ED frequent user following an ED visit.
This was an observational population-based cohort study extracted from Quebec’s administrative data.
The cohort included 451,775 adult patients, living in nonremote areas, with an ED visit between January 2012 and December 2013 (index visit), and previously diagnosed with an ACSC but not dementia.
The outcome was frequent ED use (≥4 visits) during the year following the index visit. Predictors included sociodemographics, physical and mental comorbidities, and prior use of health services. We developed several logistic models (with different sets of predictors) on a derivation cohort (2012 cohort) and tested them on a validation cohort (2013 cohort).
Frequent ED users represented 5% of the cohort and accounted for 36% of all ED visits. A simple 2-variable prediction model incorporating history of hospitalization and number of previous ED use accurately predicted future frequent ED use. The full model with all sets of predictors performed only slightly better than the simple model (area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve: 0.786 vs. 0.759, respectively; similar positive predictive value and number needed to evaluate curves).
The ability to identify frequent ED users based only on previous ED and hospitalization use provides an opportunity to rapidly target this population for appropriate interventions.