Reducing Repeat Paediatric Emergency Department Attendance for Non-urgent Care: A Systematic Review of the Effectiveness of Interventions

Agyeiwaa Poku, Pippa Hemingway

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Objective: Non-urgent paediatric emergency department (PED) visits appear to contribute a large portion to the growing use of emergency departments (EDs) globally. Several interventions have tried to curb repeated non-urgent attendances, but no systematic review of their effectiveness exists. This review examines the effectiveness of interventions designed to reduce subsequent non-urgent PED visits after a non-urgent attendance.
Method: A systematic review design. A systematic search of four databases and key journals was conducted from their inception to November 2018. Experimental studies, involving children aged 0-18 presenting to an ED for non-urgent care, that assessed the effectiveness of interventions on subsequent non-urgent attendance were considered.
Results: 2,120 studies were identified. Six studies, including four RCTs and two quasi-experimental, were included. Studies were of moderate quality methodologically. All studies originated from the US and involved informational and/or follow-up support interventions. Only two RCTs demonstrated the longest duration of intervention effects on reducing subsequent non-urgent PED attendance. These studies identified participants retrospectively after ED evaluation. The RCT with the largest number of participants involved follow-up support by primary physicians. Meta-analysis was impractical due to wide heterogeneity of the interventions.
Conclusions: There is inconclusive evidence to support any intervention aimed at reducing subsequent non-urgent PED visits following a non-urgent attendance. The long-term impact of interventions is limited, though the effect may be maximised if delivered by primary care providers in children identified after their ED attendance. However, further research is required to evaluate the impact of any such strategies in settings outside the US.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEmergency Medicine Journal
Early online date21 Jun 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jun 2019


  • repeat attendance
  • children
  • interventions
  • emergency department
  • minor illness
  • non-urgent care
  • paediatric
  • systematic review


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