Background: An Emergency Department (ED) visit represents a time of significant risk for an older adult; however, little is known about adverse outcomes after an ED visit in the VA system.
Objectives: 1) To describe the frequency and type of adverse health outcomes among older veterans discharged from the ED, and 2) To determine risk factors associated with adverse outcomes.
Design: Retrospective, cohort study at an academically affiliated VA medical center.
Patients: A total of 942 veterans > or = 65 years old discharged from the ED.
Measurements and main results: Primary dependent variable was adverse outcome, defined as a repeat VA ED visit, hospitalization, and/or death within 90 days. Overall, 320 (34.0%) patients experienced an adverse outcome: 245 (26%) returned to the VA ED but were not admitted, 125 (13.3%) were hospitalized, and 23 (2.4%) died. In adjusted analyses, higher score on the Charlson Comorbidity Index (hazard ratio [HR] 1.11; 95% CI 1.03, 1.21), ED visit within the previous 6 months (HR 1.64; 95% CI 1.30, 2.06), hospitalization within the previous 6 months (HR 1.70, 95% CI 1.30, 2.22), and triage to the emergency unit (compared to urgent care clinic) (HR 1.76, 95% CI 1.32, 2.36) were independently associated with higher risk of adverse outcomes.
Conclusion: More than 1 in 3 older veterans discharged from the ED experienced a significant adverse outcome within 90 days of ED discharge. Identifying veterans at greatest risk for adverse outcomes after ED discharge can inform the design and targeting of interventions to reduce morbidity and costs in this group.