Characteristics of Emergency Department Visits and Select Predictors of Hospitalization for Adults With Newly Diagnosed Cancer in a Safety-Net Health System

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PURPOSE: There is little description of emergency department (ED) visits and subsequent hospitalizations among a safety-net cancer population. We characterized patterns of ED visits and explored nonclinical predictors of subsequent hospitalization, including time of ED arrival. PATIENTS AND METHODS: This was a retrospective cohort study of patients with cancer (excluding leukemia and nonmelanoma skin cancer) between 2012 and 2016 at a large county urban safety-net health system. We identified ED visits occurring within 180 days after a cancer diagnosis, along with subsequent hospitalizations (observation stay or inpatient admission). We used mixed-effects multivariable logistic regression to model hospitalization at ED disposition, accounting for variability across patients and emergency physicians. RESULTS: The 9,050 adults with cancer were 77.2% nonwhite and 55.0% female. Nearly one-quarter (24.7%) of patients had advanced-stage cancer at diagnosis, and 9.7% died within 180 days of diagnosis. These patients accrued 11,282 ED visits within 180 days of diagnosis. Most patients had at least one ED visit (57.7%); half (49.9%) occurred during business hours (Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:59 pm), and half (50.4%) resulted in hospitalization. More than half (57.5%) of ED visits were for complaints that included: pain/headache, nausea/vomiting/dehydration, fever, swelling, shortness of breath/cough, and medication refill. Patients were most often discharged home when they arrived between 8:00 am and 11:59 am (adjusted odds ratio for hospitalization, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.56 to 0.84). CONCLUSION: ED visits are common among safety-net patients with newly diagnosed cancer, and hospitalizations may be influenced by nonclinical factors. The majority of ED visits made by adults with newly diagnosed cancer in a safety-net health system could potentially be routed to an alternate site of care, such as a cancer urgent care clinic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e490-e500
JournalJournal of oncology practice
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2019


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Oncology(nursing)
  • Health Policy

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