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International comparison of emergency hospital use for infants: data linkage cohort study in Canada and England

Harron K, Gilbert R, Cromwell D, Oddie S, Guttmann A, van der Meulen J. BMJ Qual Saf. 2018; 27(1):31-9. Epub 2017 Jun 12.

Objectives — To compare emergency hospital use for infants in Ontario (Canada) and England.

Methods — We conducted a population-based data linkage study in infants born ≥34 weeks' gestation between 2010 and 2013 in Ontario (n=253 930) and England (n=1 361 128). Outcomes within 12 months of postnatal discharge were captured in hospital records. The primary outcome was all-cause unplanned admissions. Secondary outcomes included emergency department (ED) visits, any unplanned hospital contact (either ED or admission) and mortality. Multivariable regression was used to evaluate risk factors for infant admission.

Results — The percentage of infants with ≥1 unplanned admission was substantially lower in Ontario (7.9% vs 19.6% in England) while the percentage attending ED but not admitted was higher (39.8% vs 29.9% in England). The percentage of infants with any unplanned hospital contact was similar between countries (42.9% in Ontario, 41.6% in England) as was mortality (0.05% in Ontario, 0.06% in England). Infants attending ED were less likely to be admitted in Ontario (7.3% vs 26.2%), but those who were admitted were more likely to stay for ≥1 night (94.0% vs 55.2%). The strongest risk factors for admission were completed weeks of gestation (adjusted OR for 34-36 weeks vs 39+ weeks: 2.44; 95% CI 2.29 to 2.61 in Ontario and 1.66; 95% CI 1.62 to 1.70 in England) and young maternal age.

Conclusions — Children attending ED in England were much more likely to be admitted than those in Ontario. The tendency towards more frequent, shorter admissions in England could be due to more pressure to admit within waiting time targets, or less availability of paediatric expertise in ED. Further evaluations should consider where best to focus resources, including in-hospital, primary care and paediatric care in the community.

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