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Original article

Vol. 143 No. 4950 (2013)

Patients leaving the emergency department without being seen by a physician: a retrospective database analysis

  • Olivier Grosgurin
  • Bérénice Cramer
  • Mathilde Schaller
  • François Paul Sarasin
  • Oliver Thierry Rutschmann
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2013;143:w13889


QUESTIONS UNDER STUDY: To describe characteristics of patients leaving the emergency department (ED) before being seen by a physician and to identify factors associated with a greater risk of leaving the ED too early.

METHODS: Design: retrospective database analysis. Setting: emergency department (ED) of an urban teaching hospital admitting 60,000 patients per year. Study subjects: all patients older than 18 years admitted to the ED over one year. Collected data: patient’s and ED visit characteristics.

RESULTS: Among the 57,645 patients admitted, we identified 2,413 patients (4.2%) who left without being seen (LWBS). LWBS patients were more likely to be male (odds ratio [OR] 1.13, 95% confidence interval [CI 95%]: 1.03–1.23), single (OR 1.12, CI 95%: 1.01–1.23), unemployed (OR 1.27, CI 95%: 1.13–1.44), dependent on welfare (OR 1.29, CI 95%: 1.12–1.50) or Muslim (OR 1.19, CI 95%: 1.00–1.42). LWBS patients were also more likely to present with less acute emergency triage levels. As complaints, alcohol and/or other substance abuse (OR 6.08, CI 95%: 5.04–7.34), neurological problems (OR 2.23, CI 95%: 1.88–2.64) or dermatological problems (OR 1.63, CI 95%: 1.37–1.94) were over-represented in this population. Patients admitted at week-ends (OR 1.27, 95% CI: 1.16–1.39) and/or during the night (OR = 2.67, 95% C: 2.35–3.02) also were at higher risk of leaving the ED prematurely.

CONCLUSIONS: LWBS patients share some characteristics and a better understanding of these characteristics as well as time and logistic issues could ease to implement strategies to reduce premature leaving from the ED.


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