Trends and characteristics of attendance at the emergency department of a Swiss university hospital: 2002-2012

Swiss Med Wkly. 2015 May 21;145:w14141. doi: 10.4414/smw.2015.14141. eCollection 2015.


Background: The numbers of people attending emergency departments (EDs) at hospitals are increasing. We aimed to analyse trends in ED attendance at a Swiss university hospital between 2002 and 2012, focussing on age-related differences and hospital admission criteria.

Methods: We used hospital administrative data for all patients aged ≥16 years who attended the ED (n=298,306) at this university hospital between 1 January 2002, and 31 December 2012. We descriptively analysed the numbers of ED visits according to the admission year and stratified by age (≥65 vs <65 years).

Results: People attending the ED were on average 46.6 years old (standard deviation 20 years, maximum range 16‒99 years). The annual number of ED attendances grew by n=6,639 (27.6%) from 24,080 in 2002 to 30,719 in 2012. In the subgroup of patients aged ≥65 the relative increase was 42.3%, which is significantly higher (Pearson's χ2=350.046, df=10; p=0.000) than the relative increase of 23.4% among patients<65 years. The subgroup of patients≥65 years attended the ED more often because of diseases (n=56,307; 85%) than accidents (n=9,844; 14.9%). This subgroup (patients≥65 years) was also more often admitted to hospital (Pearson's χ2=23,377.190; df=1; p=0.000) than patients<65 years.

Conclusions: ED attendance of patients≥65 years increased in absolute and relative terms. The study findings suggest that staff of this ED may want to assess the needs of patients≥65 years and, if necessary, adjust the services (e.g., adapted triage scales, adapted geriatric screenings, and adapted hospital admission criteria).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Disease
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / trends*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitalization / trends
  • Hospitals, University / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals, University / trends*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Switzerland
  • Young Adult