Characteristics of paediatric frequent presenters to an Australian emergency medicine network


  • Donna Markham,

    Corresponding author
    1. Allied Health, Monash Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    • Correspondence: Ms Donna Markham, Southern Health, Allied Health, Monash Medical Centre, 246 Clayton Road, Clayton, Vic. 3168, Australia. Fax: +03 9594 6098; email:

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  • Andis Graudins

    1. Department of Medicine, Southern Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    2. Department of Emergency Medicine, Monash Medical Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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  • Conflict of interest: None.



The study aims to describe the characteristics of paediatric emergency department (ED) patients defined as frequent presenters (FP) presenting to an Australian ED health service and compare these with a cohort of non-frequent presenters (NFP).


A retrospective chart review utilising an electronic emergency medicine patient medical record database was performed on paediatric patients (18 years or younger) presenting to Monash Health EDs from March 2009 to March 2010. NFPs were defined as patients presenting five or less times and FPs as presenting eight or more times in the study period. Characteristics of both groups were described and compared.


During the 12-month study period, there were 130 paediatric FP patients with 839 admissions and 34 262 paediatric NFP patients with 46 043 admissions. FPs to the ED were more likely to be female, utilise the ambulance service to arrive at the hospital and more likely to be admitted to hospital. In particular, FPs were more likely to require admission for a mental health-related problem. They were also more likely to have a discharge diagnosis related to oncology, neurology, respiratory, endocrinology and psychiatric complaints, compared with NFP who were more likely to present with a diagnosis related to injury or trauma.


Paediatric FPs are a vulnerable population with complex multidisciplinary care needs. A holistic approach towards their needs is essential to understanding the reasons for their higher frequency of attendance. By considering all the elements of the child's well-being, the child and family need support to assist in integration with other non-ED service providers. By focusing on wellness and self-management, there is a potential to reduce the reliance on acute emergency care for ongoing chronic health problems.