We surveyed the emergency medical system (EMS) in Taiwan to provide information to policymakers responsible for decisions regarding the redistribution of national medical resources.
A systematic sampling method was used to randomly sample a representative database from the National Health Insurance (NHI) database in Taiwan, during the period from 2000 to 2004.
We identified 10,124, 10,408, 11,209, 10,686, and 11,914 emergency room visits in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004, respectively. There were more males than females, and the majority of adults were younger than 50 years. Diagnose of injury/poisoning was the most frequently noted diagnostic category in emergency departments (EDs) in Taiwan. There were 13,196 (24.3%) and 2,952 (5.4%) patients with 2 and 3 concomitant diagnoses, respectively. There was a significant association between advanced age and the existence of multiple diagnoses (P < 0.001). With the exception of the ill-defined symptoms/signs/conditions, the two most frequent diagnoses were diseases of the circulatory system and diseases of the respiratory system in patients aged 65 years or older. On average, treatment-associated expenditure and drug-associated expenditure in Taiwan EDs averaged NT$1,155 ($35.0) and NT$190 ($5.8), respectively, which was equal to 64.5% and 10.6% of the total ED-associated cost. General ED medical expenditure increased with patient age; the increased cost ratio due to age was estimated at 8% per year (P < 0.001).
The frequency of major health problems diagnosed at ED visits varied by age: more complicated complaints and multiple diagnoses were more frequent in older patients. In Taiwan, the ED system remains overloaded, possibly because of the low cost of an ED visit.