Objective: We examine the pediatric emergency department (ED) population and their clinical course in pediatric versus general EDs and identify potential factors contributing to differences in performance metrics between the 2 ED settings.
Methods: This was a retrospective analysis of pediatric visits to nationally representative EDs participating in the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 1995 to 2002. Differences between pediatric and general EDs were examined in terms of patient characteristics and clinical course.
Results: Pediatric EDs treated more children with medical problems than general EDs, which treated more children with injuries. Visits by children to pediatric EDs were associated with longer wait times to see a physician (median, 40 vs. 25 minutes; P < 0.001) and longer stays in the ED (median, 130 vs. 98 minutes; P = 0.006). In multivariate analysis, the type of ED treating a pediatric patient was a significant determinant of wait time (percent change for pediatric EDs, 23.1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.4-46.6), length of stay (percent change for pediatric EDs, 23.0; 95% CI, 5.1-43.9), and rate of discharge (odds ratio for pediatric EDs, 0.75; 95% CI 0.61-0.92). Children in pediatric EDs seemed to be sicker than those in general EDs.
Conclusions: These data provide the first glimpse of health care delivery to children seen in EDs nationally. Our findings indicate that significant differences exist between pediatric visits to pediatric and general EDs. These findings may be useful in establishing performance metrics for the care of ill and injured children in both pediatric and general EDs.