Emergency Health Services (EHS) : demand and service delivery models. [Monograph 2 : Queensland EHS users’ profile]
Toloo, Sam, Rego, Joanna, FitzGerald, Gerard, Aitken, Peter, Ting, Joseph, Quinn, Jamie, & Enraght-Moony, Emma (2012) Emergency Health Services (EHS) : demand and service delivery models. [Monograph 2 : Queensland EHS users’ profile]. Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane , QLD.
Emergency health is a critical component of Australia’s health system and one which is increasingly congested from growing demand and blocked access to inpatient beds. The Emergency Health Services Queensland (EHSQ) study aims to identify the factors driving increased demand for emergency health and to evaluate strategies which may safely reduce the future demand growth. This monograph addresses the characteristics of users of emergency health services with an aim to identify those that appear to contribute to demand growth.
This study utilises data on patients treated by Emergency Departments (ED) and Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) across Queensland. ED data was derived from the Emergency Department Information System (EDIS) for the period 2001-02 through to 2010-11. Ambulance data was extracted from the QAS’ Ambulance Information Management System (AIMS) and electronic Ambulance Report Form (eARF) for the period 2001-02 through to 2009-10. Due to discrepancies and comparability issues for ED data, this monograph compares data from the 2003-04 time period with 2010-11 data for 21 of the reporting EDs. Also a snapshot of users for the 2010-11 financial year for 31 reporting EDs is used to describe the characteristics of users and to compare those characteristics with population demographics. For QAS data, the 2002-03 and 2009-10 time periods were selected for detailed analyses to identify trends.
• Demand for emergency health care services is increasing, representing both increased population and increased relative utilisation. Per capita demand for ED attention has increased by 2% per annum over the last decade and for ambulance attention by 3.7% per annum.
• The growth in ED demand is prominent in more urgent triage categories with actual decline in less urgent patients. An estimated 55% of patients attend hospital EDs outside of normal working hours. There is no evidence that patients presenting out of hours are significantly different to those presenting within working hours; they have similar triage assessments and outcomes.
• Patients suffering from injuries and poisoning comprise 28% of the ED workload (an increase of 65% in the study period), whilst declines of 32% in cardiovascular and circulatory conditions, and musculoskeletal problems have been observed.
• 25.6% of patients attending EDs are admitted to hospital. 19% of admitted patients and 7% of patients who die in the ED are triage category 4 or 5 on arrival.
• The average age of ED patients is 35.6 years.
Demand has grown in all age groups and amongst both men and women. Men have higher utilisation rates for ED in all age groups. The only group where the growth rate in women has exceeded men is in the 20-29 age group; this growth is particularly in the injury and poisoning categories.
• Considerable attention has been paid publicly to ED performance criteria. It is worth noting that 50% of all patients were treated within 33 minutes of arrival.
• Patients from lower socioeconomic areas appear to have higher utilisation rates and the utilisation rate for indigenous people appears to exceed those of European and other backgrounds. The utilisation rates for immigrant people is generally less than that of Australian born however it has not been possible to eliminate the confounding impact of different age and socioeconomic profiles.
• Demand for ambulance service is also increasing at a rate that exceeds population growth. Utilisation rates have increased by an average of 5% per annum in Queensland compared to 3.6% nationally, and the utilisation rate in Queensland is 27% higher than the national average.
• The growth in ambulance utilisation has also been amongst the more urgent categories of dispatch and utilisation rates are higher in rural and regional areas than in the metropolitan area. The demand for ambulance increases with age but the growth in demand for ambulance service has been more prominent in younger age groups.
These findings contribute significantly to an understanding of the growth in demand for emergency health. It shows that the growth is amongst patients in genuine need of emergency healthcare and public rhetoric that the congestion of emergency health services is due to inappropriate attendees is unable to be substantiated. The consistency of the growth in demand over the last decade reflects not only the changing demographics of the Australian population but also the changes in health status, standards of acute health care and other social factors. The growth is also amongst patients with acute injury and poisoning which is inconsistent with rates of chronic disease as a fundamental driver.
We have also interviewed patients in regard to their decision making choices for acute health care and the factors that influence these decisions and this will be the subject of a third Monograph and publications.
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