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Keywords:

  • emergency department;
  • HIV;
  • utilization

Objectives

The aim of the study was to describe the emergency department (ED) resource utilization patterns of ED visits by patients reported to be HIV-infected in the USA in 2009 and 2010 and to compare them with those of the general ED patient population.

Methods

We identified demographics, HIV infection status, and ED utilization patterns in 2009 and 2010 from a weighted sample of US ED visits using the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a nationally representative survey. Data on visits by patients aged ≥ 13 years were analysed using procedures for multiple-stage survey data.

Results

In 2009 and 2010, 1 192 535 visits were documented for HIV-infected patients. The estimated annual ED visit rates were 633 per 1000 known HIV-infected persons and 438 per 1000 non-HIV-infected persons [rate difference 195; 95% confidence interval (CI) 194, 197]. While no difference was recorded in the level of acuity between HIV-infected ED patients and general ED patients, the total number of diagnostic/screening services ordered and medications administered in the ED was significantly higher for visits by HIV-infected patients. HIV-infected patients making ED visits also had a longer duration of stays [mean 5.4 h (95% CI 4.6, 6.2 h) vs. 3.6 h (95% CI 3.5, 3.8 h) for HIV-uninfected patients] and were more likely to be admitted [28% (95% CI 22, 34%) vs. 15% (95% CI 14, 16%), respectively] than their non-HIV-infected counterparts.

Conclusions

ED visits by HIV-infected individuals occur at rates higher than those of visits by the general population, and consume significantly more ED resources than visits by the general population. These national findings represent baseline prior to full implementation of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.