Bouncing Back Elsewhere: Multilevel Analysis of Return Visits to the Same or a Different Hospital After Initial Emergency Department Presentation

Ann Emerg Med. 2018 May;71(5):555-563.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2017.08.023. Epub 2017 Sep 28.


Study objective: Analyses of 72-hour emergency department (ED) return visits are frequently used for quality assurance purposes and have been proposed as a means of measuring provider performance. These analyses have traditionally examined only patients returning to the same hospital as the initial visit. We use a health information exchange network to describe differences between ED visits resulting in 72-hour revisits to the same hospital and those resulting in revisits to a different site.

Methods: We examined data from a 31-hospital health information exchange of all ED visits during a 5-year period to identify 72-hour return visits and collected available encounter, patient, and hospital variables. Next, we used multilevel analysis of encounter-level, patient-level, and hospital-level data to describe differences between initial ED visits resulting in different-site and same-site return visits.

Results: We identified 12,621,159 patient visits to the 31 study EDs, including 841,259 same-site and 107,713 different-site return visits within 72 hours of initial ED presentation. We calculated odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the initial-visit characteristics' predictive relationship that any return visit would be at a different site: daytime visit (OR 1.10; 95% CI 1.07 to 1.12), patient-hospital county concordance (OR 1.40; 95% CI 1.36 to 1.44), male sex (OR 1.27; 95% CI 1.24 to 1.30), aged 65 years or older (OR 0.55; 95% CI 0.53 to 0.57), sites with an ED residency (OR 0.41; 95% CI 0.40 to 0.43), sites at an academic hospital (OR 1.12; 95% CI 1.08 to 1.15), sites with high density of surrounding EDs (OR 1.73; 95% CI 1.68 to 1.77), and sites with a high frequency of same-site return visits (OR 0.10; 95% CI 0.10 to 0.11).

Conclusion: This analysis describes how ED encounters with early revisits to the same hospital differ from those with revisits to a second hospital. These findings challenge the use of single-site return-visit frequency as a quality measure, and, more constructively, describe how hospitals can use health information exchange to more accurately identify early ED return visits and to support programs related to these revisits.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Information Exchange / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multilevel Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality Improvement / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult