Many emergency admissions are deemed to be potentially avoidable in a well-performing health system.
To measure the impact of population and health system factors on county-level variation in potentially avoidable emergency admissions in Ireland over the period 2014-2016.
Admissions data were used to calculate 2014-2016 age-adjusted emergency admission rates for selected conditions by county of residence. Negative binomial regression was used to identify which a priori factors were significantly associated with emergency admissions for these conditions and whether these factors were also associated with total/other emergency admissions. Standardised incidence rate ratios (IRRs) associated with a 1 SD change in risk factors were reported.
Nationally, potentially avoidable emergency admissions for the period 2014-2016 (266 395) accounted for 22% of all emergency admissions. Of the population factors, a 1 SD change in the county-level unemployment rate was associated with a 24% higher rate of potentially avoidable emergency admissions (IRR: 1.24; 95% CI 1.04 to 1.41). Significant health system factors included emergency admissions with length of stay equal to 1 day (IRR: 1.20; 95% CI 1.11 to 1.30) and private health insurance coverage (IRR: 0.92; 95% CI 0.89 to 0.96). The full model accounted for 50% of unexplained variation in potentially avoidable emergency admissions in each county. Similar results were found across total/other emergency admissions.
The results suggest potentially avoidable emergency admissions and total/other emergency admissions are primarily driven by socioeconomic conditions, hospital admission policy and private health insurance coverage. The distinction between potentially avoidable and all other emergency admissions may not be as useful as previously believed when attempting to identify the causes of regional variation in emergency admission rates.