Distinct subgroups of emergency department frequent users: A latent class analysis

From the American Journal of Emergency Medicine:


Emergency department (ED) frequent users have high resource utilization and associated costs. Many interventions have been designed to reduce utilization, but few have proved effective. This may be because this group is more heterogeneous than initially assumed, limiting the effectiveness of targeted interventions. The purpose of this study was to identify and describe distinct subgroups of ED frequent users and to estimate costs to provide hospital-based care to each group.


Latent class analysis was used to identify homogeneous subgroups of ED frequent users. ED frequent users (n = 5731) from a single urban tertiary hospital-based ED and level 1 trauma center in 2014 were included. Descriptive statistics (counts and percentages) are described to characterize subgroups. A cost analysis was performed to examine differences in direct medical costs between subgroups from the healthcare provider perspective.


Four subgroups were identified and characterized: Short-term ED Frequent Users, Heart-related ED Frequent Users, Long-term ED Frequent Users, and Minor Care ED Frequent Users. The Heart-related group had the largest per person costs and the Long-term group had the largest total group costs.


Distinct subgroups of ED frequent users were identified and described using a statistically objective method. This taxonomy of ED frequent users allows healthcare organizations to tailor interventions to specific subgroups of ED frequent users who can be targeted with tailored interventions. Cost data suggest intervention for long-term ED frequent users offers the greatest cost-avoidance benefit from a hospital perspective.

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