Rates of emergency hospitalisations are increasing in many countries, leading to disruption in the quality of care and increases in cost. Therefore, identifying strategies to reduce emergency admission rates is a key priority. There have been large-scale evidence reviews to address this issue; however, there have been no reviews of medication therapies, which have the potential to reduce the use of emergency health-care services. The objectives of this study were to review systematically the evidence to identify medications that affect emergency hospital admissions and prioritise therapies for quality measurement and improvement.
This was a systematic review of systematic reviews. We searched MEDLINE, PubMed, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews & Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, Google Scholar and the websites of ten major funding agencies and health charities, using broad search criteria. We included systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials that examined the effect of any medication on emergency hospital admissions among adults. We assessed the quality of reviews using AMSTAR. To prioritise therapies, we assessed the quality of trial evidence underpinning meta-analysed effect estimates and cross-referenced the evidence with clinical guidelines.
We identified 140 systematic reviews, which included 1968 unique randomised controlled trials and 925,364 patients. Reviews contained 100 medications tested in 47 populations. We identified high-to moderate-quality evidence for 28 medications that reduced admissions. Of these medications, 11 were supported by clinical guidelines in the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe. These 11 therapies were for patients with heart failure (angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, aldosterone receptor antagonists and digoxin), stable coronary artery disease (intensive statin therapy), asthma exacerbations (early inhaled corticosteroids in the emergency department and anticholinergics), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (long-acting muscarinic antagonists and long-acting beta-2 adrenoceptor agonists) and schizophrenia (second-generation antipsychotics and depot/maintenance antipsychotics).
We identified 11 medications supported by strong evidence and clinical guidelines that could be considered in quality monitoring and improvement strategies to help reduce emergency hospital admission rates. The findings are relevant to health systems with a large burden of chronic disease and those managing increasing pressures on acute health-care services.