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The “better data, better planning” census: a cross-sectional, multi-centre study investigating the factors influencing patient attendance at the emergency department in Ireland

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-03-15, 15:05 authored by Niamh CumminsNiamh Cummins, Louise A Barry, Carrie GaravanCarrie Garavan, Collette Devlin, Gillian Corey, Fergal Cummins, DAMIEN RYAN, Sinead Cronin, Emma WallaceEmma Wallace, Gerard McCarthy, Rose GalvinRose Galvin

Background: Internationally Emergency Department (ED) crowding is a signifcant health services delivery issue  posing a major risk to population health. ED crowding affects both the quality and access of health services and is  associated with poorer patient outcomes and increased mortality rates. In Ireland the practising of “Corridor Medicine”  and “Trolley Crises” have become prevalent. The objectives of this study are to describe the demographic and clinical  profle of patients attending regional EDs and to investigate the factors infuencing ED utilisation in Ireland. Methods: This was a multi-centre, cross-sectional study and recruitment occurred at a selection of urban and rural  EDs (n=5) in Ireland throughout 2020. At each site all adults presenting over a 24 h census period were eligible for  inclusion. Clinical data were collected via electronic records and a questionnaire provided information on demographics, healthcare utilisation, service awareness and factors infuencing the decision to attend the ED. Results: Demographics difered signifcantly between ED sites in terms of age (p≤0.05), socioeconomic status  (p≤0.001), and proximity of health services (p≤0.001). Prior to ED attendance 64% of participants accessed community health services. Most participants (70%) believed the ED was the “best place” for emergency care or attended due to lack of awareness of other services (30%). Musculoskeletal injuries were the most common reason for presentation  to the ED in this study (24%) and almost a third of patients (31%) reported presenting to the ED for an x-ray or scan. Conclusions: This study has identifed regional and socioeconomic diferences in the drivers of ED presentations  and factors infuencing ED attendance in Ireland from the patient perspective. Improved awareness of, and provision  of alternative care pathways could potentially decrease ED attendances, which would be important in the context of  reducing ED crowding during the COVID-19 pandemic. New strategies for integration of acute care in the community  must acknowledge and plan for these issues as a universal approach is unlikely to be implemented successfully due  to regional factors 



BMC Health Services Research 22, 471



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Health Service Executive Clinical Design and Innovation Office

Also affiliated with

  • Health Research Institute (HRI)

Department or School

  • Allied Health
  • Nursing and Midwifery
  • School of Medicine