Characteristics and predictors of adult frequent emergency department users in the United States: A systematic literature review. Academic Article uri icon


  • STUDY OBJECTIVE: We conducted a systematic literature review to identify and to update patient characteristics and contextual factors for adult frequent emergency department users (FEDUs) compared with non-FEDU in an era where the US health care system underwent substantial changes. METHODS: We searched MEDLINE, CINAHL, and EMBASE to identify all relevant articles after 2010 through July 2018 that describe FEDU. We included US studies on adult FEDU only and excluded studies on specific subgroups of FEDU. We included demographic, clinical, and health care utilization information, and two reviewers independently evaluated the studies using the Joanna Briggs Institute Critical Appraisal tool. RESULTS: The 11 studies included in the review indicated that FEDU were 4% to 16% of total ED users but accounted for 14% to 47% of ED visits, with six to nine visits per year on average. The majority of FEDU were young or middle-aged adults, females, of low socioeconomic status and high school or less education, with public insurance, multiple primary care provider visits, and chronic conditions. Fair or poor self-perceived health status, unemployment, unmet needs from primary care providers (PCPs), mental health, and substance abuse were predictors of FEDU. CONCLUSION: FEDUs are disproportionally sicker and are also heavy users of non-ED health care service providers. The limited data for non-ED health services use in facility-specific studies of FEDU may contribute to findings in such studies that complex and unmet needs from PCPs contributed to ED visits. This suggests the need for more comprehensive data analysis beyond a few sites that can inform systemic management approaches.

published proceedings

  • J Eval Clin Pract

altmetric score

  • 4

author list (cited authors)

  • Giannouchos, T. V., Kum, H., Foster, M. J., & Ohsfeldt, R. L.

citation count

  • 39

complete list of authors

  • Giannouchos, Theodoros V||Kum, Hye-Chung||Foster, Margaret J||Ohsfeldt, Robert L

publication date

  • June 2019