Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE (Open Access)

Trends and predicted trends in presentations of older people to Australian emergency departments: effects of demand growth, population aging and climate change

Ellen Burkett A B G , Melinda G. Martin-Khan C D , Justin Scott E , Mayukh Samanta F and Leonard C. Gray C D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Princess Alexandra Hospital, Ipswich Road, Woolloongabba, Qld 4102, Australia.

B South-side Clinical School, School of Medicine, University of Queensland, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Ipswich Road, Woolloongabba, Qld 4102, Australia.

C Centre for Research in Geriatric Medicine, University of Queensland, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Ipswich Road, Woolloongabba, Qld 4102, Australia.

D Centre for Online Health, School of Medicine, University of Queensland, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Ipswich Road, Woolloongabba, Qld 4102, Australia. Email: m.martinkhan@uq.edu.au; len.gray@uq.edu.au

E Queensland Facility for Advanced Bioinformatics, University of Queensland, 306 Carmody Road, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia. Email: j.scott@qfab.org

F Clinical Trials and Biostatistics Unit, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, 300 Herston Road, Herston, Qld 4006, Australia. Email: Mayukh.Samanta@qimrberghofer.edu.au

G Corresponding author. Email: ellen.burkett@health.qld.gov.au

Australian Health Review 41(3) 246-253 https://doi.org/10.1071/AH15165
Submitted: 8 September 2015  Accepted: 23 May 2016   Published: 29 July 2016

Abstract

Objectives The aim of the present study was to describe trends in and age and gender distributions of presentations of older people to Australian emergency departments (EDs) from July 2006 to June 2011, and to develop ED utilisation projections to 2050.

Methods A retrospective analysis of data collected in the National Non-admitted Patient Emergency Department Care Database was undertaken to assess trends in ED presentations. Three standard Australian Bureau of Statistics population growth models, with and without adjustment for current trends in ED presentation growth and effects of climate change, were examined with projections of ED presentations across three age groups (0–64, 65–84 and ≥85 years) to 2050.

Results From 2006–07 to 2010–11, ED presentations increased by 12.63%, whereas the Australian population over this time increased by only 7.26%. Rates of presentation per head of population were greatest among those aged ≥85 years. Projections of ED presentations to 2050 revealed that overall ED presentations are forecast to increase markedly, with the rate of increase being most marked for older people.

Conclusion Growth in Australian ED presentations from 2006–07 to 2010–11 was greater than that expected from population growth alone. The predicted changes in demand for ED care will only be able to be optimally managed if Australian health policy, ED funding instruments and ED models of care are adjusted to take into account the specific care and resource needs of older people.

What is known about the topic? Rapid population aging is anticipated over coming decades. International studies and specific local-level Australian studies have demonstrated significant growth in ED presentations. There have been no prior national-level Australian studies of ED presentation trends by age group.

What does this paper add? The present study examined national ED presentation trends from July 2006 to June 2011, with specific emphasis on trends in presentation by age group. ED presentation growth was found to exceed population growth in all age groups. The rate of ED presentations per head of population was highest among those aged ≥85 years. ED utilisation projections to 2050, using standard Australian Bureau of Statistics population modelling, with and without adjustment for current ED growth, were developed. The projections demonstrated linear growth in ED presentation for those aged 0–84 years, with growth in ED presentations of the ≥85 year age group demonstrating marked acceleration after 2030.

What are the implications for practitioners? Growth in ED presentations exceeding population growth suggests that current models of acute health care delivery require review to ensure that optimal care is delivered in the most fiscally efficient manner. Trends in presentation of older people emphasise the imperative for ED workforce planning and education in care of this complex patient cohort, and the requirement to review funding models to incentivise investment in ED avoidance and substitutive care models targeting older people.


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