Perspectives on the preventability of emergency department visits by older patients

M. T.H. Verhaegh, F. Snijders, L. Janssen, N. A.L.R. Peters, Y. Mol, F. Kamerman-Celie, L. S. Van Galen, P. W.B. Nanayakkara, D. G. Barten

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Background: Older people increasingly demand emergency department (ED) care. ED visits have a profound impact on older patients, including high risk of adverse outcomes and loss of independency. In this study, we evaluated the opinions of patients, caregivers, general practitioners, and ED physicians on the preventability of ED visits. Methods: Prospective, mixed-method observational and qualitative study of 200 patients aged ≥ 70 years visiting a teaching hospital ED in the Netherlands. Semi-structured interviews were performed with patients, caregivers, and general practitioners. ED physicians were provided with written surveys. Patient data were extracted to determine vulnerability. Results: The mean age of the patients was 79.6 years; 49.5% were male. Ninety-five percent lived independently before the ED visit. Most patients reported domiciliary care (23%), a caregiver (21.5%), or both (29.5%). Patients considered 12.2% of visits potentially preventable, caregivers 9%, general practitioners 20.7%, and ED physicians 31.2%. Consensus on preventability was poor, especially among patients and professionals. While patients most frequently blamed themselves, healthcare providers predominantly mentioned lack of communication and organisational issues as contributing factors. Conclusion: Patients and caregivers consider an ED visit preventable less frequently than professionals do. Little consensus was found among patients and healthcare providers, and the perspectives on contributing factors to a preventable visit differ between groups. To help improve geriatric emergency care, future studies should focus on why these perspectives are so different and aim to align them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-337
Number of pages8
JournalNetherlands journal of medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Caregiver
  • Emergency department
  • Geriatrics
  • Preventability

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