An Emergency Department-initiated, web-based, multidisciplinary approach to decreasing emergency department visits by the top frequent visitors using patient care plans

J Emerg Med. 2013 Apr;44(4):853-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2012.08.020. Epub 2012 Oct 26.


Background: Many patients present to the Emergency Department (ED) for multiple visits. Whatever the cause, assuring the highest quality of care is difficult in the ED.

Objectives: We sought to implement a web-based, ED-initiated, multidisciplinary program to improve patient care and reduce frequent visits to the ED.

Methods: The top 50 ED frequent visitors were identified and care plans were constructed. Care plans consist primarily of a summary of the patient's pertinent history and any psychosocial issues that can contribute to frequent use of the ED, and recommend treatment plans for these patients.

Results: During the study period, ED visits by the top 50 chronic frequent visitors ranged from 88 to 98 visits/month and 28 to 31 admissions/month. As of January 2007, the top 50 frequent visitors had 94 ED visits/month (1,129 visits/year) for 2.2% of the total census, and 31 admissions/month (372 admissions per year) for approximately 3.3% of the total admissions. Each frequent visitor has approximately 22.6 visits/year (range from 11 to 41) and 7.3 admissions/year (range from 0 to 20). By May 2008, the top 50 frequent visitors had a decrease to 88 visits/month (1,059 visits/year) and 28 admissions/month (340 admissions/year), with each frequent visitor having 21.2 visits/year and 6.8 admissions/year. Social determinants included psychiatric disease (36%), substance abuse (22%), malingering (20%), medication noncompliance (16%), and unstable housing (10%).

Conclusions: There was a trend toward a decrease of monthly ED visits by the top 50 ED frequent visitors, but no effect on the rate of admissions. Based on these preliminary data and the relative ease of integration into the system, this project shows the potential to begin to address the problem of chronic ED use with patient care plans.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Admission / trends*
  • Patient Care Planning / organization & administration*
  • Retrospective Studies