Utilization of the pediatric emergency department: the experience of a Portuguese center

Margarida S. Rafael, Sofia Portela, Paulo Sousa, Adalberto Campos Fernandes

Abstract


DOI: 10.15448/1980-6108.2017.1.24919

Aims: The excess demand for pediatric emergency services has caused much concern among health professionals and hospital administrators. The aim of this study was to assess the utilization of a pediatric emergency department and to determine whether its use was injudicious.

Methods: Retrospective cross-sectional analysis of all emergency cases treated throughout 2012 in a general hospital located in the metropolitan area of Lisbon, Portugal. The data were obtained from the hospital’s computer information system. Each patient was submitted at admission to the Manchester triage system adapted for Portugal, and the episodes were categorized into immediate, very urgent, urgent, standard, non-urgent, and not classified. All those episodes classified as standard and non-urgent were denoted as unjustified urgent episodes. The data were collected anonymously and analyzed by the IBM SPSS Statistics software using the chi-square test and one-way ANOVA at a 5% significance level (p<0.05).

Results: We analyzed 37,099 pediatric emergency department episodes, of which 19,478 patients were male (53%), the median age was 4 years (interquartile range of 1-9 years), and 78.4% were up to 10 years old. Of all the episodes, 21,177 (57.1%) were classified as standard and 15,470 (41.6%) as urgent or very urgent. Of these patients, 27,294 (73.6%) used the emergency department during the week and 28,679 (77.3%) between 10 a.m. and 12 a.m. It was found that in 90.8% of very urgent, 97.1% of urgent, and 99.4% of standard episodes, patients were discharged without the need for hospitalization.

Conclusions: More than half of the children who used the pediatric emergency department had standard or non-urgent needs, and almost all of them were discharged with follow-up recommendations by the attending physician. Most of the episodes occurred during opening hours of primary healthcare centers.

Keywords


emergency medicine; emergency health services; pediatrics; overutilization of health services.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15448/1980-6108.2017.1.24919

e-ISSN: 1980-6108 | ISSN-L: 1806-5562


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