Objective: To determine whether the use of individualized patient care plans and multidisciplinary case management would decrease ED utilization by frequent ED users.
Methods: The authors performed a prospective, randomized clinical trial of the impact of a care plan on ED use by adults with frequent ED visits. Patients with >10 ED visits to a university hospital in 1993 were identified. Patients were matched for age, sex, and number of visits and then randomized into 2 groups. The control group received standard emergency care. The treatment group was managed by a multidisciplinary team and treated in the ED according to individualized care plans. ED use was tracked at the university hospital and at the other 5 community hospitals in the city.
Results: Of the 70 enrolled patients, 25 of 37 control patients and 27 of 33 treatment patients made visits to the university hospital during the 1-year study period. Only those patients with follow-up visits were included in the data analysis. Patients remaining in the control group made 247 total visits (range 1–65) to the university hospital and 179 total visits (range 0–38) to the community hospitals during the study period. Patients in the treatment group made 320 total visits (range 1–72) to the university hospital and 254 total visits (range 0–135) to the community hospitals during the study period. There was no significant difference in the median number of visits made to either the university hospital or the community hospitals by the patients in the control group and those in the treatment group.
Conclusions: The use of individualized care plans and case management did not significantly decrease ED utilization by frequent ED users. However, the impact of individualized care plans and case management on other quality-of-care measures (e.g., patient satisfaction, ED length of stay, hospitalizations, primary care visits, and health care costs) remains to be determined.