Background: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) guidelines recommend that patients receive a follow-up outpatient asthma visit after being discharged from an emergency department (ED) for asthma.
Objective: To measure the frequency of follow-up outpatient asthma visits and its association with repeat ED asthma visit.
Design: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of children with asthma using claims data from a university-based managed care organization from January 1998 to October 2000. We performed a multivariate survival analysis using Cox proportional hazards model to determine the effect of follow-up outpatient asthma visits on the likelihood of a repeat ED asthma visit, after controlling for severity of illness, patient age, gender, insurance, and the specialty of the primary care provider.
Results: A total of 561 children had 780 ED asthma visits. Of these, 103 (17%) had a repeat ED asthma visit within 1 year. Almost two-thirds of children (66%) did not receive outpatient follow-up for asthma within 30 days of an ED asthma visit. Outpatient asthma visits within 30 days of an ED asthma visit are associated with an increased likelihood (relative risk = 1.80; 95% confidence interval 1.19, 2.72) for repeat ED asthma visits within 1 year.
Conclusions: Most patients do not have outpatient follow-up after an ED asthma visit. However, those patients that present for outpatient follow-up have an increased likelihood for repeat ED asthma visits. For the primary care provider, these outpatient follow-up visits signal an increased risk that a patient will return to the ED for asthma and are a key opportunity to prevent future ED asthma visits.