Background: A small proportion of patients utilizes a disproportionately large amount of emergency department (ED) resources. Being able to properly identify chronic frequent ED users, i.e. frequent ED users over a multiple-year period, would allow healthcare professionals to intervene before it occurs and, if possible, redirect these patients to more appropriate health services. The objective of this study was to explore the factors associated with chronic frequent ED utilization in a population with diabetes.
Methods: A population-based retrospective cohort study using administrative data was conducted on 62,316 patients with diabetes living in metropolitan areas of Quebec (Canada), having visited an ED during 2006, and still alive in 31 December 2009. The dependant variable was being a chronic frequent ED user, defined as having at least 3 ED visits per year during three consecutive years (2007-2009). Independent variables, measured during 2006, included age, sex, neighbourhood deprivation, affiliation to a general practitioner, and number of physical and mental health comorbidities. Logistic regression and tree-based method were used to identify factors associated with chronic frequent ED use.
Results: A total of 2.6% of the cohort (patients with diabetes and at least one ED visit in 2006) was identified as chronic frequent ED users. These patients accounted for 16% of all ED visits made by the cohort during follow-up. The cumulative effect of a high illness burden combined with mental health disorders was associated with an increased risk of chronic frequent ED use.
Conclusions: Interventions must target the population at higher risk of becoming chronic frequent ED users and should be designed to manage the complex interaction between high illness burden and mental health.
Keywords: Administrative data; Diabetes; Emergency department; Frequent use.