Introduction: Steadily increasing emergency department (ED) utilization has prompted efforts to increase resource allocation to meet demand. Little is known about the distribution and characteristics of patient arrivals by time of day. This study describes the variability and patterns of ED resource utilization related to patient, acuity, clinical, and disposition characteristics over a 24-hour period. Methods: Retrospective cross-sectional study of all visits to a tertiary children's hospital over a 1-year period. We use descriptive statistics to present ED visit details stratified by shift of arrival, and multivariable regression to explore the association between shift of presentation and hospital admission at index and 7-day return ED visits. Results: Of 46,942 visits during the study period, 12% arrived overnight, 42% during the day, and 45% during the evening with variability in pattern of shift arrival by day of week. Overnight arrivals had a higher acuity (Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale [CTAS]) and different presenting complaints (more viral infection, less minor trauma) than day and evening arrivals, but similar ED length of stay. Shift of arrival was not associated with admission to hospital, but age, gender, socioeconomic status (SES), and day of week were. Discussion: ED utilization patterns vary by shift of arrival. Though overnight arrivals represent a smaller proportion of total daily arrivals, their acuity is higher, and the spectrum of disease differs from day or evening arrivals. Conclusions: Understanding variations and patterns of ED utilization by shift of arrival and day of week may be helpful in tailoring resource allocation to more accurately and specifically meet demands.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health