Forecast modeling to identify changes in pediatric emergency department utilization during the COVID-19 pandemic

Sriram Ramgopal*, Jonathan H. Pelletier, Jaskaran Rakkar, Christopher M. Horvat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: To identify trends in pediatric emergency department (ED) utilization following the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: We performed a cross-sectional study from 37 geographically diverse US children's hospitals. We included ED encounters between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2020, transformed into time-series data. We constructed ensemble forecasting models of the most common presenting diagnoses and the most common diagnoses leading to admission, using data from 2010 through 2019. We then compared the most common presenting diagnoses and the most common diagnoses leading to admission in 2020 to the forecasts. Results: 29,787,815 encounters were included, of which 1,913,085 (6.4%) occurred during 2020. ED encounters during 2020 were lower compared to prior years, with a 65.1% decrease in April relative to 2010–2019. In forecasting models, encounters for depression and diabetic ketoacidosis remained within the 95% confidence interval [CI]; fever, bronchiolitis, hyperbilirubinemia, skin/subcutaneous infections and seizures occurred within the 80–95% CI during the portions of 2020, and all other diagnoses (abdominal pain, otitis media, asthma, pneumonia, trauma, upper respiratory tract infections, and urinary tract infections) occurred below the predicted 95% CI. Conclusion: Pediatric ED utilization has remained low following the COVID-19 pandemic, and below forecasted utilization for most diagnoses. Nearly all conditions demonstrated substantial declines below forecasted rates from the prior decade and which persisted through the end of the year. Some declines in non-communicable diseases may represent unmet healthcare needs among children. Further study is warranted to understand the impact of policies aimed at curbing pandemic disease on children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142-147
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Volume49
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Delivery of health care
  • Emergency service
  • Hospital
  • Hospitals
  • Pediatric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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