Frequent utilization of the emergency department for acute heart failure syndrome: a population-based study

Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2014 Sep;7(5):735-42. doi: 10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.114.000949. Epub 2014 Aug 19.


Background: Although most research on patients with acute heart failure syndrome (AHFS) has focused on readmissions, this may provide an incomplete picture of health-care utilization. We examined the proportion and characteristics of patients with frequent emergency department (ED) visits for AHFS and associated health-care utilization.

Methods and results: A retrospective cohort study of adults with at least 1 ED visit for AHFS between 2010 and 2011 was performed, derived from population-based multipayer data of state ED and inpatient databases for 2 large and diverse states, California and Florida. The analytic sample comprised 113 033 patients with 175 491 ED visits for AHFS. During the 1-year follow-up period, 30.8% of patients had ≥2 (frequent) visits, accounting for 55.4% (95% confidence interval, 55.2-55.5%) of all ED visits for AHFS. In the multivariable model, significant predictors of frequent ED visits were non-Hispanic black race, Hispanic ethnicity, Medicaid insurance, and lower median household income (all P<0.001). At the visit level, patients with frequent ED visits accounted for 55.0% (95% confidence interval, 54.8-5.3%) of all AHFS hospitalizations via ED. Total charges for AHFS were $3.08 billion (95% confidence interval, $3.03-3.14 billion) in Florida alone; patients with frequent ED visits accounted for 53.3% of total charges (95% confidence interval, 53.2-53.3%).

Conclusions: In this large cohort study, we found that one third (31%) of ED patients with AHFS had frequent ED visits for this condition and that minority race/ethnicity and lower socioeconomic status were associated with frequent ED visits. Individuals with frequent ED visits accounted for the majority of ED visits, hospitalizations, and hospital charges.

Keywords: emergency service, hospital; epidemiology; heart failure; recurrence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • California
  • Cohort Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Florida
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Failure / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Groups*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Poverty*
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Syndrome
  • Young Adult