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Soc Sci Med. 1985;21(7):761-70.

Heavy users of an emergency department: psycho-social and medical characteristics, other health care contacts and the effect of a hospital social worker intervention.


A small proportion of the patients coming to emergency departments of general hospitals account for a substantial share of the department's resources by making repeated visits. Repeater behaviour is a complex product of many, sometimes concurrent factors. This study has focused on the medical and psycho-social factors. A group of patients with repeated visits to an emergency department of a middle-sized Stockholm hospital was studied in 1980. The repeater group had a heavier load of psycho-social problems than the source population. The repeater behaviour profile included: feeling of loneliness, living alone, contacts with social agency, disability pension, high sick absenteeism from work and alcoholism. The repeater group had numerous contacts with health-care providers outside the emergency department. Some of the repeaters needed and received help by a social hospital worker. Of those that received such help 80% significantly decreased their emergency department visiting rate.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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