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JMIR Med Inform. 2018 Nov 5;6(4):e10498. doi: 10.2196/10498.

Appropriateness of Hospital Admission for Emergency Department Patients with Bronchiolitis: Secondary Analysis.

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Department of Biomedical Informatics and Medical Education, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, United States.
Department of Pediatrics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, United States.
Homer Warner Research Center, Intermountain Healthcare, Murray, UT, United States.



Bronchiolitis is the leading cause of hospitalization in children under 2 years of age. Each year in the United States, bronchiolitis results in 287,000 emergency department visits, 32%-40% of which end in hospitalization. Frequently, emergency department disposition decisions (to discharge or hospitalize) are made subjectively because of the lack of evidence and objective criteria for bronchiolitis management, leading to significant practice variation, wasted health care use, and suboptimal outcomes. At present, no operational definition of appropriate hospital admission for emergency department patients with bronchiolitis exists. Yet, such a definition is essential for assessing care quality and building a predictive model to guide and standardize disposition decisions. Our prior work provided a framework of such a definition using 2 concepts, one on safe versus unsafe discharge and another on necessary versus unnecessary hospitalization.


The goal of this study was to determine the 2 threshold values used in the 2 concepts, with 1 value per concept.


Using Intermountain Healthcare data from 2005-2014, we examined distributions of several relevant attributes of emergency department visits by children under 2 years of age for bronchiolitis. Via a data-driven approach, we determined the 2 threshold values.


We completed the first operational definition of appropriate hospital admission for emergency department patients with bronchiolitis. Appropriate hospital admissions include actual admissions with exposure to major medical interventions for more than 6 hours, as well as actual emergency department discharges, followed by an emergency department return within 12 hours ending in admission for bronchiolitis. Based on the definition, 0.96% (221/23,125) of the emergency department discharges were deemed unsafe. Moreover, 14.36% (432/3008) of the hospital admissions from the emergency department were deemed unnecessary.


Our operational definition can define the prediction target for building a predictive model to guide and improve emergency department disposition decisions for bronchiolitis in the future.


appropriate hospital admission; bronchiolitis; emergency department; operational definition

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