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Comparisons of medical utilizations and categorical diagnoses of emergency visits between the elderly with catastrophic illness certificates and those without

Yang Nan-Ping123*, Lee Yi-Hui34, Chung Chi-Yu5, Hsu Jin-Chyr2, Yu I-Liang2, Chang Nien-Tzu3 and Chan Chien-Lung5

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Public Health, College of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan

2 Department of Medical Research, Tao-Yuan General Hospital, Department of Health, Executive Yuan, 1492, Jhongshan Rd, Taoyuan, 33004, Taiwan

3 Institute & Department of Nursing, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan

4 Department of Nursing, School of Nursing, Chang-Gang University, Taoyuan, Taiwan

5 Department of Information Management, Yuan-Ze University, Taoyuan, Taiwan

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BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13:152  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-152

Published: 26 April 2013



In Taiwan, the policy of catastrophic illness certificates has benefited some populations with specific diseases, but its effect on the use of medical services and the sequence of public health has not been examined. As a pilot of a series of studies, focused on emergency department (ED) visits, the present study aimed to compare medical utilization and various diagnostic categories at EDs between the elderly with an identified catastrophic illness and the elderly without.


A cross-sectional study, based on a large-sample nationwide database (one million of the population, randomly sampled from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD)), was performed in Taiwan. The 2008 insurance records of ambulatory medical services for subjects aged 65 years or more among the above one million of the population were further selected and analyzed. Taiwan’s registered catastrophic illness dataset for 2008 was linked in order to identify the target subgroup.


The prevalence of certificated catastrophic illness in Taiwan’s elderly utilizing ambulatory medical services was 10.16%. On average, 61.62 emergency department (ED) visits/1,000 persons (95% CI: 59.22–64.01) per month was estimated for the elderly Taiwanese with catastrophic illness, which was significantly greater than that for the elderly without a catastrophic illness (mean 33.53, 95% CI: 32.34–34.71). A significantly greater total medical expenditure for emergency care was observed in the catastrophic illness subgroup (US$145.6 ± 193.5) as compared with the non-catastrophic illness group (US$108.7 ± 338.0) (p < 0.001). The three most common medical problems diagnosed when visiting EDs were injury/poisoning (14.22%), genitourinary disorders (11.26%) and neoplasm-related morbidity (10.77%) for the elderly population with a catastrophic illness, which differed from those for the elderly without a catastrophic illness.


In Taiwan, the elderly with any certificated catastrophic illness had significantly more ED visits and a higher ED medical cost due to untypical medical complaints.

Elderly; Catastrophic illness; Utilization