Effectiveness of hospital avoidance interventions among elderly patients: A systematic review

CJEM. 2020 Jul;22(4):504-513. doi: 10.1017/cem.2020.4.


Objective: Older patients with complex care needs and limited personal and social resources are heavy users of emergency department (ED) services and are often admitted when they present to the ED. Updated information is needed regarding the most effective strategies to appropriately avoid ED presentation and hospital admission among older patients.

Methods: This systematic review aimed to identify interventions that have demonstrated effectiveness in decreasing ED use and hospital admissions in older patients. We conducted a comprehensive literature search within Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials from database inception to July 2019 with no language restrictions. Interventional study designs conducted in populations of 65 years and older were included. Primary outcomes were ED visits and hospital admissions. Secondary outcomes included hospital readmission, mortality, cost, and patient-reported outcomes.

Results: Of 7,943 citations reviewed for eligibility, 53 studies were included in our qualitative synthesis, including 26 randomized controlled trials (RCT), 8 cluster-RCTs, and 19 controlled before-after studies. Data characterization revealed that community-based strategies reduced ED visits, particularly those that included comprehensive geriatric assessments and home visits. These strategies reported decreases in mean ED use (for interventions versus controls) ranging from -0.12 to -1.32 visits/patient. Interventions that included home visits also showed reductions in hospital admissions ranging from -6% to -14%. There was, however, considerable variability across individual studies with respect to outcome reporting, statistical analyses, and risk of bias, which limited our ability to further quantify the effect of these interventions.

Conclusion: Various interventional strategies to avoid ED presentations and hospital admissions for older patients have been studied. While models of care that include comprehensive geriatric assessments and home visits may reduce acute care utilization, the standardization of outcome measures is needed to further delineate which parts of these complex interventions are contributing to efficacy. The potential effects of multidisciplinary team composition on patient outcomes also warrant further investigation.

Keywords: Emergency medicine; geriatric medicine; interventional studies.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Hospitalization*
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Patient Readmission