Emergency Department Cluster High Utilizers: Trends, Demographics, and Impact on Health Care Systems

The purpose of this research was to identify demographics of people who repeatedly have multiple emergency department visits over a short period of time, defined by this project as cluster high utilizers, and to draw attention to the impact of cluster high utilizers on health care systems. This research included retrospective hospital data organized by quantity of emergency department visits per week over a four-year period. The methods for data analysis included descriptive statistics focused on demographics and emergency department utilization for a sample of cluster high utilizers (n = 53). Cluster high utilizers in this research were most likely to be middle aged, homeless, white, male, have MediCal health insurance, not have a primary care provider, and visit the emergency department in the summer months. The results of this research indicate that cluster high utilizers represent an extremely small portion of the overall emergency department patient population (0.83%); however, they use the emergency department at significantly higher rates, in this study 2,644% more than the general patient population (N = 92,313). Further research is necessary to determine the causes of cluster high utilization and to design effective social work and emergency department interventions. Addressing this problem could prevent many unnecessary emergency department visits.