BACKGROUND: A growing presence of inappropriate patients has been recognised as one of the main factors influencing emergency department (ED) overcrowding, which is a very widespread problem all over the world. On the other hand, out-of-hours (OOH) physicians must avoid delaying the diagnostic and therapeutic course of patients with urgent medical conditions. The aim of this study was to analyse the appropriateness of patient management by OOH services, in terms of their potentially inappropriate referral or non-referral of non-emergency cases to the ED. METHODS: This was an observational retrospective cohort study based on data collected in 2011 by the local health authority No. 4 in the Veneto Region (Italy). After distinguishing between patients contacting the OOH service who were or were not referred to the ED, and checking for patients actually presenting to the ED within 24 hours thereafter, these patients' medical management was judged as potentially appropriate or inappropriate. RESULTS: The analysis considered 22 662 OOH service contacts recorded in 2011. The cases of potentially inappropriate non-referral to the ED were 392 (1.7% of all contacts), as opposed to 1207 potentially inappropriate referrals (5.3% of all contacts). Age, nationality, type of disease and type of intervention by the OOH service were the main variables associated with the appropriateness of patient management. CONCLUSIONS: These findings may be useful for pinpointing the factors associated with a potentially inappropriate patient management by OOH services and thus contribute to improving the deployment of healthcare and the quality of care delivered by OOH services.
- HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION &
- PRIMARY CARE