Low rates of follow-up with primary care providers after pediatric emergency department visits for respiratory tract illnesses

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2012 Oct;28(10):956-61. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e31826c6dde.


Objectives: We sought to determine diagnosis-specific rates of follow-up with primary care providers (PCPs) after emergency department (ED) visits for respiratory tract illnesses. We hypothesized that follow-up rates would be higher among patients with acute infectious illnesses than among those with asthma.

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study of a random sample of patients aged 0 to 12 years discharged over a 12-month period from an urban, tertiary care pediatric ED with 4 different respiratory tract illnesses (asthma, bronchiolitis, croup, and pneumonia). Primary care provider follow-up was examined for associations with sociodemographic and clinical factors and with subsequent ED visits.

Results: Rates of follow-up in the overall cohort were low: 23.6% (95% confidence interval, 19.7-27.4) by 7 days and 40.5% (95% confidence interval, 36.0-44.9) by 30 days. Compared with patients with asthma, the relative risks (RRs) of follow-up within 7 and 30 days were significantly higher among patients with bronchiolitis and pneumonia, but not with croup. For the cohort as a whole, the RR of follow-up within 7 and 30 days significantly decreased for each 1-year increase in age, and the RR of follow-up within 7 days significantly increased with the provision of explicit ED discharge instructions recommending follow-up. Among patients with asthma, follow-up with PCPs within 30 days was not associated with decreased ED visits for asthma over the following year.

Conclusions: Rates of PCP follow-up were globally low but significantly higher for patients with acute infectious illnesses, for younger patients, and for those receiving explicit ED discharge instructions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors