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).