Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Comparative emergency department resource utilisation across age groups

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

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

B Southside 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 Rd., Woolloongabba, Qld, 4102, Australia. Email: m.martinkhan@uq.edu.au; len.gray@uq.edu.au

D Centre for Online Health, School of Medicine, University of Queensland.

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

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH17113
Submitted: 2 May 2017  Accepted: 9 October 2017   Published online: 11 December 2017

Abstract

Objectives The aim of the present study was to assess comparative emergency department (ED) resource utilisation across age groups.

Methods A retrospective analysis of data collected in the National Non-admitted Patient Emergency Department Care Database was undertaken to assess comparative ED resource utilisation across six age groups (0–14, 15–35, 36–64, 65–74, 75–84 and ≥85 years) with previously used surrogate markers of ED resource utilisation.

Results Older people had significantly higher resource utilisation for their individual ED episodes of care than younger people, with the effect increasing with advancing age.

Conclusion With ED care of older people demonstrated to be more resource intensive than care for younger people, the projected increase in older person presentations anticipated with population aging will have a magnified effect on ED services. These 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? Current Australian ED funding models do not adjust for patient age. Several regional studies have suggested higher resource utilisation of ED patients aged ≥65 years. Anticipated rapid population aging mandates that contribution of age to ED visit resource utilisation be further explored.

What does this paper add? The present study of national Australian ED presentations compared ED resource utilisation across age groups using surrogate markers of ED cost. Older people were found to have significantly higher resource utilisation in the ED, with the effect increasing further with advancing age.

What are the implications for practitioners? The higher resource utilisation of older people in the ED warrants a review of current ED funding models to ensure that they will continue to meet the needs of an aging population.

Additional keywords: aging, health funding and financing, health policy, health systems.


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