Trends in observation-prone emergency department visits among Michigan children, 2007-2011

Michelle L. MacY*, Lisa Cohn, Sarah J. Clark

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives To the best of the authors' knowledge, admission of children under observation status in community hospitals has not been examined. The hypothesis of this study was that there has been an increase in observation charge code use over time and variations in the application of observation charge codes across hospital types. Methods This was a cross-sectional analysis of 5 years (2007 through 2011) of administrative claims data from Michigan residents enrolled in Medicaid, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan preferred provider organization, and Blue Cross Network health maintenance organization compiled into a single data set. Emergency department (ED) visits to facilities in Michigan made by children (younger than 18 years) were selected. Observation-prone ED visits were identified based on the presence of International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) codes. Counts of observation-prone ED visits were determined and descriptive statistics were calculated. Changes over time in the proportion of visits with observation charge codes by hospital type were assessed with chi-square analysis. Results The observation-prone ICD-9-CM codes were identified in 881,622 ED visits made by children to 142 Michigan facilities during the 5-year study period. Overall, the vast majority of visits (n = 646,499; 91.0%) with the selected ICD-9-CM codes resulted in discharge from the ED without associated observation or inpatient charge codes. Among the 64,288 visits that resulted in admission for observation or inpatient care, observation charge codes without inpatient charge codes were applied to 22,933 (35.7%) admissions, observation and inpatient charge codes were applied to 4,756 (7.4%) admissions, and inpatient charge codes without observation charge codes were applied to 36,599 (56.9%) admissions. Hospitals with pediatric ED and inpatient services (Type 1 and Type 2 hospitals) had higher proportions of ED visits that went on to admission for observation or inpatient care (15.9 and 10.7%) than hospitals without pediatric ED services (Type 3 and Type 4 hospitals; 7.2 and 3.7%). The proportion of admissions that had observation charge codes for all hospital types increased over time, most prominently among Type 1 and Type 2 hospitals. Conclusions The application of observation charge codes to Michigan children with observation-prone conditions has increased over time across all hospital types. There is a need to evaluate pediatric observation care in diverse settings to compare the effectiveness of different models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-486
Number of pages4
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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