Association of Geriatric Emergency Department post-discharge referral order and follow-up with healthcare utilization

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2023 Mar;71(3):821-831. doi: 10.1111/jgs.18137. Epub 2022 Dec 1.


Background: Compared with younger adults who receive care in the emergency department (ED), older patients who are discharged home have greater risk of adverse health outcomes. Connecting older adults with outpatient care following ED discharge are among the guidelines of the Geriatric Emergency Department (GED). The objective of this study was to examine the association between referral order placed during the ED visit for older adults and post-discharge follow-up to the outcomes of 72-h ED revisit, 30-day ED revisit, and 30-day all cause and unplanned hospital admission.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study. Ten accredited GEDs within one midwestern health system and all ED encounters of older adults aged 65 years and older who were discharged home from the ED between July 2019 and December 2020 were included. Predictor variables included age, sex, race, ISAR©, ED Length of Stay, post-ED referral order, and follow-up.

Results: Among the older adults discharged home from the ED, 17% of older adult encounters had an outpatient referral ordered in the ED, 48.4% attended a follow-up appointment. Referrals were ordered for 69 referral order types with orthopedic, family practice, and urology referrals as the top 3. In mixed-effect regression models, compared with older adults with follow-up, those with a referral order but no follow-up had 19% higher odds of having a 30-day ED revisit (OR = 1.19; 95% CI = 1.07-1.31) and 11% higher odds of having 30-day unplanned hospital admission (OR = 1.11; 95% CI = 0.98-1.26).

Conclusions: Older adults who had an outpatient referral ordered prior to ED discharge and followed up had lower odds of a 30-day ED revisit and 30-day subsequent unplanned hospital admission. However, less than half of patients with a referral order attended a follow-up appointment. Designing interventions for older adults aimed at improving follow-up after an ED visit is needed.

Keywords: 30-day hospital admission; Geriatric Emergency Department; emergency department revisit; follow-up; referral order.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aftercare*
  • Aged
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Retrospective Studies