Reduced hospitalization rates are not associated with increased mortality or readmission rates in an emergency department in Israel

Sharon A. Greenberg*, Pinchas Halpern, Tomer Ziv-Baran, Ronni Gamzu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Aim: In 2011 the Israeli Ministry of Health (MOH) instructed hospitals to limit occupancy in the internal medicine wards to 120%, which was followed by a nationwide reduction in hospitalization rates. We examined how readmission and mortality rates changed in the five years following the changes in occupancy rates and hospitalization rates. Methods: All visits to the Tel Aviv Medical Center internal Emergency Medicine Department (ED) in 2010, 2014 and 2016 were captured, with exclusion of visits by patients below 16 of age and patients with incomplete or faulty data. The main outcomes were one-week readmission rates and one-month death rates. The secondary outcomes were admission rate, ED visit length & admission-delay time (minutes), and rates of admission-delayed patients. Results: After exclusion, a total of 168,891 internal medicine ED patients were included in the analysis. Mean age was 58.0 and 49% were males. During the relevant period (2010-2016), total medical ED visits increased by 11% - 53,327, 56,588 and 59,066 in 2010, 2014 and 2016 respectively. Hospitalization rates decreased from 46% in 2010 to 35% in 2015 (p < 0.001), with the most prominent reduction in the elderly population. One-week readmission rates were 6.5, 6.4 and 6.7% in 2010, 2014 and 2016 respectively (p = 0.347 and p = 0.21). One-month mortality was similar in 2010 and 2014 (4.4 and 4.5%, p = 0.388) and lower in 2016 (4.1%, p = 0.048 compared with 2010). Average ED visit length increased from 184 min in 2010 to 238 and 262 min in 2014 & 2016 (p < 0.001 for both) and average delay time to ward admission increased from 97 min in 2010 to 179 and 240 in 2014 & 2016 (p < 0.001 for both). In 2010 24% of the admitted patients were delayed in the ED more than 2 h, numbers that increased to 53% in 2014 and 66% in 2016 (p < 0.001 for both). Conclusion: Following the 2011 MOH's decision to establish a 120% occupancy limit for internal medicine wards along with natural growth in population volume, significant changes were noted in the work of a large, presumably representative emergency department in Israel. Although a steady increase in total ED visits along with a steady reduction in hospitalization rates were observed, the readmission and mortality rates remained low. The increase in the average length of ED visits and in the delay from ED admission to a ward reflects higher burden on the ED. The study was not able to establish a causal connection between the MOH directive and the subsequent changes in ED activity. Nonetheless, the study has significant potential implications for policy makers, including the presence of senior ED physicians during afterhours, creation of short-stay diagnostic units and proper adjustments in ED size and personnel.

Original languageEnglish
Article number69
JournalIsrael Journal of Health Policy Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 Nov 2018


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