Objective: To determine which characteristics of older patients who use a hospital ED are associated with repeat visits during the 90 days following the index visit.
Methods: The study was conducted in the ED of a 400-bed university-affiliated acute care community hospital in Montreal. Patients aged > or = 75 years who visited the ED between 08:00 and and 16:00 on a convenience sample of days over an 8-week period (July and August 1994) were assessed using a questionnaire, physical and cognitive status instruments, and a functional problem checklist. The hospital's administrative database was used to identify repeat visits during the 90 days following the ED visit. The representativeness of the sample was assessed by analyses of ED visits made by 4,466 persons aged > or = 65 years during a 12-month period (September 1993 to August 1994) using the hospital's administrative database.
Results: 256 patients aged > or = 75 years visited the ED during the study period and 167 were assessed. Of these, 54 (32%) were admitted to the hospital. Among the 113 patients released from the ED, 27 (24%) made repeat visits during the next 90 days. In univariate analyses, repeat visits were significantly associated with the number of functional problems, cognitive impairment, and previous ED visits. In multiple logistic regression, male gender, living alone, and number of functional problems were independent predictors of repeat visits. In the administrative data analyses, nighttime arrival to the ED for the index visit was significantly associated with repeat visits.
Conclusions: Self-reported risk factors can help to identify a group of elders likely to make repeated ED visits; the development of a screening instrument incorporating questions on these problems and implementation of appropriate interventions might improve these patients' quality of life and reduce the demand for further ED care in this age group.