The urban homeless: super-users of the emergency department

Bon S Ku, J Matthew Fields, Abbie Santana, Daniel Wasserman, Laura Borman, Kevin C Scott
Population Health Management 2014, 17 (6): 366-71
In the United States, patient usage of costly emergency departments (EDs) has been portrayed as a major factor contributing to health care expenditures. The homeless are associated with ED frequent users, a population often blamed for inappropriate ED use. This study examined the characteristics and costs associated with homeless ED frequent users. A retrospective cross-sectional review of hospital records for ED visits in 2006 at an urban academic medical center was performed. Frequent users were defined as having greater than 4 ED visits in one year. Homeless status was determined by self-report and review by an interdisciplinary team. A total of 5440 (8.9%) ED visits were made by 542 frequent users, 74 (13.7%) of whom were homeless and made 845 ED visits. Homeless frequent users had a median age of 47 years (39-56 interquartile range), were predominantly male (85.1%), and insured by Medicaid (59.5%). Most (44.2%) visits by homeless frequent users occurred between 1500-2259 hours and had an Emergency Severity Index of Level 3 (55.5%). Sixty-four percent of visits resulted in homeless patients being discharged back to the street; only 4.0% had a specific discharge plan addressing homelessness. Total charges and payments for all homeless frequent users were $4,812,615 and $802,600, respectively. The single top frequent user accrued charges of $482,928. ED frequent users are disproportionately homeless and their costs are significant. ED discharge planning should address the additional risks faced by homeless individuals. ED-based interventions that specifically target the most expensive homeless frequent users may prove to be cost-effective.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"