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Objectives: Analyses of emergency department (ED) use require visit classification algorithms based on administrative data. Our objectives were to present an expanded and revised version of an existing algorithm and to use this tool to characterize patterns of ED use across US hospitals and within a large sample of health plan enrollees.
Study Design: Observational study using National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey ED public use files and hospital billing data for a health plan cohort.
Methods: Our Johns Hopkins University (JHU) team classified many uncategorized diagnosis codes into existing New York University Emergency Department Algorithm (NYU-EDA) categories and added 3 severity levels to the injury category. We termed this new algorithm the NYU/JHU-EDA. We then compared visit distributions across these 2 algorithms and 2 other previous revised versions of the NYU-EDA using our 2 data sources.
Results: Applying the newly developed NYU/JHU-EDA, we classified 99% of visits. Based on our analyses, it is evident that an even greater number of US ED visits than categorized by the NYU-EDA are nonemergent. For the first time, we provide a more complete picture of the level of severity among patients treated for injuries within US hospital EDs, with about 86% of such visits being nonsevere. Also, both the original and updated classification tools suggest that, of the 38% of ED visits that are clinically emergent, the majority either do not require ED resources or could have been avoided with better primary care.
Conclusions: The updated NYU/JHU-EDA taxonomy appears to offer cogent retrospective inferences about population-level ED utilization.
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