Acute medical admissions: a critical appraisal of the literature

New Zealand Health Technology Assessment
Record ID 31998008954
Authors' objectives:

This report aims to answer the following questions in relation to both adults and children:

1. Are acute medical admissions rising?

2. Why are acute medical admissions increasing?

3. Are acute medical admissions appropriate?

4. What interventions reduce acute medical admission rates?

Authors' recommendations: A significant unresolved issue in the literature is that no satisfactory definition exists of what constitutes an emergency admission. Although most studies have used an administrative definition (namely a patient spending a defined period of time in a hospital), this definition should also require some consideration of the patient's clinical state (that is, they should have an emergency condition that requires urgent care) or else the potential will always exist for classification bias in the research literature. Any focus on reducing hospital admissions largely considers the effectiveness of interventions to prevent exacerbations of chronic disease and does not consider the potential importance of preventing the development of these diseases. Acute medical admissions for children have significant differences to adults: children are usually admitted on the initiative of a care-giver for a single, acute condition. General practitioners (GPs), followed by the emergency department (ED), are the most important gatekeepers in the admission pathway for both adults and children in New Zealand. Therefore, interventions aimed at either GPs or EDs may have the largest potential to reduce the number of acute medical admissions. A large number of steps, involving a wide range of health professionals, are involved in hospital admission. The presence of a range of steps and health professionals in the process indicates there is a wide range of possible interventions that could impact on the rising number of acute medical admissions. The consequences of increased numbers of acute admissions include: a fiscal challenge to the budgets of the purchasers and the providers of secondary care services, a reduced ability to undertake non-urgent work, increased pressure on staff and difficulties with planning staffing levels. Finally, an increased workload for hospital staff may lead to changes in professional roles and have implications for professional education. No published review has yet examined the rise in admissions with regard to its implications for the health of a population. For example, more admissions may represent an improvement in health outcomes associated with better access to secondary care services for some groups. Conversely, it may represent a deterioration in population health, reflecting lost opportunities to utilise other health interventions.
Authors' methods: Review
Project Status: Completed
Year Published: 1998
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Not Assigned
Country: New Zealand
MeSH Terms
  • Child
  • Hospitalization
  • Patient Admission
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
Organisation Name: New Zealand Health Technology Assessment
Contact Address: Department of Public Health and General Practice, Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago, P.O. Box 4345, Christchurch, New Zealand. Tel: +64 3 364 1145; Fax: +64 3 364 1152;
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Copyright: New Zealand Health Technology Assessment
This is a bibliographic record of a published health technology assessment from a member of INAHTA or other HTA producer. No evaluation of the quality of this assessment has been made for the HTA database.