Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The impact of early emergency department allied health intervention on admission rates in older people: a non-randomized clinical study

Glenn Arendts123*, Sarah Fitzhardinge2, Karren Pronk2, Mark Donaldson4, Marani Hutton5 and Yusuf Nagree26

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Clinical Research in Emergency Medicine, Western Australian Institute for Medical Research, Level 5 MRF Building, Rear 50 Murray St, WA 6000 Perth, Australia

2 School of Primary, Aboriginal and Rural Health Care, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

3 Department of Emergency Medicine, Royal Perth Hospital, Perth, Australia

4 Department of Geriatric Medicine, Royal Perth Hospital, Perth, Australia

5 South Metropolitan Area Health Service, Western Australian Department of Health, Perth, Australia

6 Department of Emergency Medicine, Fremantle Hospital, Fremantle, Australia

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Geriatrics 2012, 12:8  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-12-8

Published: 20 March 2012



This study sought to determine whether early allied health intervention by a dedicated Emergency Department (ED) based team, occurring before or in parallel with medical assessment, reduces hospital admission rates amongst older patients presenting with one of ten index problems.


A prospective non-randomized trial in patients aged sixty five and over, conducted in two Australian hospital EDs. Intervention group patients, receiving early comprehensive allied health input, were compared to patients that received no allied health assessment. Propensity score matching was used to compare the two groups due to the non-randomized nature of the study. The primary outcome was admission to an inpatient hospital bed from the ED.


Of five thousand two hundred and sixty five patients in the trial, 3165 were in the intervention group. The admission rate in the intervention group was 72.0% compared to 74.4% in the control group. Using propensity score probabilities of being assigned to either group in a conditional logistic regression model, this difference was of borderline statistical significance (p = 0.046, OR 0.88 (0.76-1.00)). On subgroup analysis the admission rate in patients with musculoskeletal symptoms and angina pectoris was less for those who received allied health intervention versus those who did not. This difference was significant.


Early allied health intervention in the ED has a significant but modest impact on admission rates in older patients. The effect appears to be limited to a small number of common presenting problems.