Why follow-up care after an emergency room visit matters

Why follow-up care after an emergency room visit matters

Readjusting to home life after a visit to the emergency department can be difficult, and for older adults it even comes with added health risks. That’s why approximately one in four older adults who are discharged from the ED return within 30 days.

But, a study from Advocate Aurora Health researchers found that return trips to the ED are less likely for people who follow up their visit with the recommended outpatient care.

“New geriatric emergency department standards changed the referrals process for the better, moving from ED caregivers providing passive recommendations for outpatient care to actively facilitating outpatient care appointments as patients leave the ED,” says Aaron Malsch, a senior services program manager for Aurora Health Care and co-author of the article. “The next challenge is ensuring that older patients actually attend their prescribed outpatient visits following an ED visit.”

The researchers found that among older patients who were discharged from the ED and received a referral for outpatient care but did not follow up with that care, 3.6% returned to the ED within 72 hours and 20% returned within 30 days. In contrast, among those who were referred to and attended outpatient care following an ED visit, 2.5% returned to the ED within 72 hours and 16.5% returned within 30 days.

Notably, researchers found that 17% of adults ages 65 and older who were discharged from the ED received a referral to outpatient care, and only 48.4% of those patients attended the follow-up appointment.

“Because return trips to the ED often result in hospital admission and more intensive treatment, our study’s findings serve as a reminder for older patients who visit the ED to take follow-up care seriously and also for health systems to address barriers to older adult follow-up care,” says Michelle Simpson, a research scientist for Advocate Aurora Research Institute and lead author of the article.

Learn more about clinical trials and research at Advocate Aurora Research Institute.

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One Comment

  1. In my case, the initial ED visit was followed by a 2nd ED visit for the same reason, but with reoccurring and progressively worse symptoms, a week later. In all likelihood, the 2nd visit could have been avoided had a referral appointment for follow up care been available within a couple of days of the initial visit vs. a week and a half later. It was only the eventual follow up care that prevented a 3rd ED visit.

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About the Author

Nick Bullock
Nick Bullock

Nick Bullock, health enews contributor, is a scientific writer and editor for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. He is a former newspaper reporter and magazine editor with a background in science and research reporting. When he’s not writing about the latest health care research, Nick is usually hiking through Wisconsin state parks, reading sci-fi novels or historical nonfiction, trying new recipes, agonizing over Minnesota sports franchises and playing games with his family.