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Substance-related emergency department (ED) visits are rapidly increasing. Despite this finding, many EDs do not have access to on-site addiction services. This study characterized substance-related ED presentations and assessed the ED health care team's perceived need for an on-site rapid-access addiction clinic for direct patient referral from the ED.
This prospectively enrolled cohort study was conducted at an urban tertiary care ED from June to August 2018. Adult ED patients with problematic or high-risk substance use were enrolled by ED staff using a one-page form. The electronic and paper records from the index ED visit were reviewed. The primary outcome evaluated whether the ED health care team would have referred the patient to an on-site rapid-access addiction clinic, if one were available.
We received 557 enrolment forms and 458 were included in the analysis. Median age was 35 years, and 64% of included patients were male. Alcohol was the most commonly reported substance of problematic or high-risk use (60%). Previous ED visits within 7 days of the index visit were made by 28% of patients. The ED health care team indicated “Yes” for rapid-access addiction clinic referral from the ED for 66% of patients, with a mean of 4.3 patients referred per day during the study period.
At least four patients per day would have been referred to an on-site rapid-access addiction clinic from the ED, had one been available. This indicates a gap in care and collaborating with other sites that have successfully implemented this clinic model is an important next step.
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