Low-resource emergency department visits for children with complex chronic conditions

Christian D. Pulcini*, Ryan J. Coller, Michelle L. Macy, Elizabeth Alpern, Debbi Harris, Jonathan Rodean, Matt Hall, Paul J. Chung, Jay G. Berry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: Reducing emergency department (ED) use in children with complex chronic conditions (CCC) is a national health system priority. Emergency department visits with minimal clinical intervention may be the most avoidable. We assessed characteristics associated with experiencing such a low-resource ED visit among children with a CCC. Methods: A retrospective study of 271,806 ED visits between 2014 and 2017 among patients with a CCC in the Pediatric Health Information System database was performed. The main outcome was a low-resource ED visit, where no medications, laboratory, procedures, or diagnostic tests were administered and the patient was not admitted to the hospital. χ2 Tests and generalized linear models were used to assess bivariable and multivariable relationships of patients' demographic, clinical, and health service characteristics with the likelihood of a low- versus higher-resource ED visit. Results: Sixteen percent (n = 44,111) of ED visits among children with CCCs were low-resource. In multivariable analysis, the highest odds of experiencing a low- versus higher-resource ED visit occurred in patients aged 0 year (vs 16+ years; odds ratio [OR], 3.9 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 3.7–4.1]), living <5 (vs 20+) miles from the ED (OR, 1.7 [95% CI, 1.7–1.8]), and who presented to the ED in the day and evening versus overnight (1.5 [95% CI, 1.4–1.5]). Conclusions: Infant age, living close to the ED, and day/evening-time visits were associated with the greatest likelihood of experiencing a low-resource ED visit in children with CCCs. Further investigation is needed to assess key drivers for ED use in these children and identify opportunities for diversion of ED care to outpatient and community settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E856-E862
JournalPediatric emergency care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • Children with medical complexity
  • Hospitalization
  • Low-resource utilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Emergency Medicine


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