Ambulatory follow-up among publicly insured children discharged from the emergency department

Sriram Ramgopal*, Jonathan Rodean, Elizabeth R. Alpern, Matt Hall, Pradip P. Chaudhari, Jennifer R. Marin, Samir S. Shah, Stephen B. Freedman, Mohamed Eltorki, Oluwakemi Badaki-Makun, Daniel J. Shapiro, Tara Rhine, Rustin B. Morse, Mark I. Neuman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: While children discharged from the emergency department (ED) are frequently advised to follow up with ambulatory care providers, the extent to which this occurs is unknown. We sought to characterize the proportion of publicly insured children who have an ambulatory visit following ED discharge, identify factors associated with ambulatory follow-up, and evaluate the association of ambulatory follow-up with subsequent hospital-based health care utilization. Methods: We performed a cross-sectional study of pediatric (<18 years) encounters during 2019 included in the IBM Watson Medicaid MarketScan claims database from seven U.S. states. Our primary outcome was an ambulatory follow-up visit within 7 days of ED discharge. Secondary outcomes were 7-day ED return visits and hospitalizations. Logistic regression and Cox proportional hazards were used for multivariable modeling. Results: We included 1,408,406 index ED encounters (median age 5 years, IQR 2–10 years), for which a 7-day ambulatory visit occurred in 280,602 (19.9%). Conditions with the highest proportion of 7-day ambulatory follow-up included seizures (36.4%); allergic, immunologic, and rheumatologic diseases (24.6%); other gastrointestinal diseases (24.5%); and fever (24.1%). Ambulatory follow-up was associated with younger age, Hispanic ethnicity, weekend ED discharge, ambulatory encounters prior to the ED visit, and diagnostic testing performed during the ED encounter. Ambulatory follow-up was inversely associated with Black race and ambulatory care–sensitive or complex chronic conditions. In Cox models, ambulatory follow-up was associated with a higher hazard ratio (HR) of subsequent ED return (HR range 1.32–1.65) visit and hospitalization (HR range 3.10–4.03). Conclusions: One-fifth of children discharged from the ED have an ambulatory visit within 7 days, which varied by patient characteristics and diagnoses. Children with ambulatory follow-up have a greater subsequent health care utilization, including subsequent ED visit and/or hospitalization. These findings identify the need to further research the role and costs associated with routine post-ED visit follow-up.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)721-730
Number of pages10
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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