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Keywords:

  • care model;
  • elderly;
  • emergency admission;
  • trend

Abstract

Objectives

To describe the trends in emergency admissions over 10 years in terms of volume, age-specific rates, hospital length of stay (LOS) and clinical reasons.

Methods

A retrospective analysis of population-based linked Department of Health ED and hospital admission data for metropolitan Melbourne 1999/2000 to 2008/2009 was conducted. Outcome measures included: hospital admission numbers (total, single day/overnight, ≥2 days LOS); admission rates per 1000 person-years (total, single day/overnight, ≥2 days LOS); hospital LOS.

Results

The volume of patients admitted to hospital through EDs rose by 56% over the 10 years to June 2009. The number of same day/overnight admissions rose by 60%, equating to a 6.1% average annual increase beyond that accounted for by demographic change (95% CI 5.7–6.5%). The volume of patients admitted for ≥2 days also increased; however, the admission rate per 1000 persons for these longer-stay patients declined over the decade by 9% (95% CI 5–12%). The most frequent discharge diagnoses were injury or poisoning, and disorders of the circulatory, respiratory or digestive systems. The numbers and mortality rate for ED admissions declined over the decade.

Conclusion

Emergency hospital admissions have risen over the last decade even after adjustment for population changes. There was a disproportionate rise in same day/overnight admissions, with overrepresentation of the elderly. This is possibly related to changes in ED models of care, including introduction of short-stay units, improved diagnostic and therapeutic capability, and risk-averse management to optimise safe discharge, within the context of time-based performance targets.