Objective: To evaluate the effects of multidisciplinary case management (CM) on emergency department (ED) utilisation and psychosocial variables for frequent attenders at the ED.
Design: Retrospective cohort analysis, with the study population as historical controls and data analysed 12 months before and after CM intervention in the period 1 January 2000 - 31 December 2004. Subgroup analyses were performed according to primary problem categories: general medical, drug and alcohol, and psychosocial.
Setting: Inner urban tertiary hospital ED.
Participants: Frequent ED attenders who received CM.
Main outcome measures: ED attendances: length of stay, triage category, ambulance transport, disposition, attendances at the only two EDs nearby. Psychosocial factors: housing status, drug and alcohol use, and primary and community care engagement.
Results: 60 CM patients attended the ED on 1387 occasions. Total attendances increased after CM for the whole group (610 v 777, P = 0.055). Mean average length of stay (minutes) of the total study population and each subgroup was unaffected by CM (297 v 300, P = 0.8). Admissions for ED overnight observation increased as a result of CM (P = 0.025). CM increased scores for housing stability (P = 0.007), primary care linkage (P = 0.003), and community care engagement (P < 0.001) for the whole group and variously within subgroups. Drug and alcohol use was unaffected by CM.
Conclusion: ED-initiated, multidisciplinary CM appears to increase ED utilisation and have a positive effect on some psychosocial factors for frequent attenders. A trend towards increased ED attendance and utilisation with CM may have implications for policies that seek to divert frequent attenders away from hospitals.