Follow-up with outpatient clinicians after discharge from the emergency department (ED) reduces adverse outcomes among older adults, but rates are suboptimal. Social isolation, a common factor associated with poor health outcomes, may help explain these low rates. This study evaluates social isolation as a predictor of outpatient follow-up after discharge from the ED.
This cohort study uses the control group from a randomized-controlled trial investigating a community paramedic-delivered Care Transitions Intervention with older patients (age≥60 years) at three EDs in mid-sized cities. Social Isolation scores were measured at baseline using the PROMIS 4-item social isolation questionnaire, grouped into tertiles for analysis. Chart abstraction was conducted to identify follow-up with outpatient primary or specialty healthcare providers and method of contact within 7 and 30 days of discharge.
Of 642 patients, highly socially-isolated adults reported significantly worse overall health, as well as increased anxiety, depressive symptoms, functional limitations, and co-morbid conditions compared to those less socially-isolated (p<0.01). We found no effect of social isolation on 30-day follow-up. Patients with high social isolation, however, were 37% less likely to follow-up with a provider in-person within 7 days of ED discharge compared to low social isolation (OR:0.63, 95% CI:0.42-0.96).
This study adds to our understanding of how and when socially-isolated older adults seek outpatient care following ED discharge. Increased social isolation was not significantly associated with all-contact follow-up rates after ED discharge. However, patients reporting higher social isolation had lower rates of in-person follow-up in the week following ED discharge.
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