Pediatric Emergency Department Return Visits: An Innovative and Systematic Approach to Promote Quality Improvement and Patient Safety

THSK-OO-Pediatric ED Return Visits

The Hospital for Sick Children (ED)

Objectives: Emergency department (ED) return visits (RVs) leading to hospital admission are a quality measure that can potentially signal gaps in patient care. Systematic capture and investigation of RVs at a case level can provide an understanding of patient- and visit-level factors associated with RVs, and thus inform system-level quality improvement (QI) opportunities. Our objective is to describe the development of a database that enables tracking and analyzing of all pediatric ED RVs, to understand recurring themes and inform QI initiatives.


Methods: A single-center retrospective cohort study was conducted at a quaternary care children's hospital during a 3-year period (December 2013 to November 2016). All 72-hour RVs were audited for patient- and visit-level variables and clinicians completed root-cause analyses of their RVs. Using descriptive statistics, variables associated with RVs and system-level quality themes were identified.


Results: Of 214,047 ED patient visits, 1546 (0.7%) patients returned within 72 hours and were admitted. The RV patients had higher acuity scores on both visits compared with all ED visits, and the RV group had a higher proportion of children younger than 12 months than the overall ED visit group (25.0% vs 16.2%). The underlying cause for the majority of RVs was determined to be natural disease progression (63%), whereas 9% were callbacks for positive blood cultures or discrepant radiology results, and 6% were categorized as misdiagnoses. Several successful QI initiatives were completed as a result of the program.


Authors: Olivia Ostrow, Alena Zelinka, Andrea Shim, Syed Khurram Azmat, Sameer Masood, Lucas B. Chartier

Project complete