Emergency department (ED) activity is measured by the number of presentations to the ED.
This section presents information on the number of presentations to public hospital EDs reported between 2015–16 and 2019–20. ED presentations are also presented by:
Between 2018–19 and 2019–20:
Last updated 18/11/2020 v4.0
Between February and the end of June 2020, a range of restrictions on travel, business, social interaction and border control were introduced to prevent and reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID 19).
In this period, there have also been a number of other changes that may have impacted on the provision of healthcare services, including:
This section presents weekly analysis of presentations to emergency departments (EDs) over 2 years (2018–19 to 2019–20) to highlight the impact of these changes on ED activity and allow comparison between years.
The data presented here show the impact the outbreak and measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 had on emergency department activity in Australia.
The ED presentations with a principal diagnosis related to COVID-19 reported here do not reflect the number of diagnosed COVID‑19 cases.
The number of ED presentations with symptoms related to COVID‑19 are likely influenced by external factors, such as public health messages, measures implemented by state and territory and federal governments and the opening of COVID‑19 testing centres in local areas.
Projected data estimates use 6 years of historical data on emergency department presentations to highlight what the trend may have looked like without the spread of COVID‑19 in the community.
The data visualisations below present data on ED presentations for 2019–20, including:
In some visualisations, data are also presented for 2018–19 for comparative purposes.
These visualisations show emergency department activity between 2018-19 and 2019-20.
They show a breakdown of principal diagnoses for ED presentations over the two years and allow users to see the impact of COVID-19 on ED activity.
Nationally, between 2014–15 and 2018–19 the number of presentations to public hospital EDs increased by 3.2% on average each year. However, in 2019–20, the number of ED presentations decreased by 1.4% compared to 2018–19.
From March to June 2020:
the average daily ED presentations then steadily increased, though were still lower than in the comparable period in 2019. In the week beginning 22 June, there were, on average, 21,400 daily ED presentations—8.4% lower than for the comparable period in 2019.
Projected estimates of ED activity for 2019–20 suggest that, without the impact of COVID-19, the average daily number of ED presentations would have remained steady at around 23,000 presentations per day on average.
See Notes for information on how data on the projected presentations were calculated.
When a patient presents to the ED, an experienced registered nurse or medical practitioner allocates them a triage category. This indicates the urgency of the patient’s need for medical and nursing care.
In the period from March to June 2020, the proportion of ED presentations assigned a triage category of Non-urgent increased, as a proportion of the total presentations per week.
This suggests that the volume of ED presentations with chronic or minor symptoms and for whom treatment could be delayed up to 2 hours increased during the COVID‑19 outbreak.
As a proportion of all triage categories, other triage categories (Resuscitation, Emergency, and Urgent) remained stable across the time period, however there was a slight decline in Urgent and Semi-urgent ED presentations from March to June 2020.
To accurately capture data about the presentation of suspected COVID-19 presentations, the states and territories introduced code classifications to identify confirmed, suspected, and ruled-out COVID-19 ED presentations under the advice of the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA).
The use of these codes was not necessarily applied in a consistent manner across health facilities at the same and the presentations to ED for COVID-19 are likely to have been influenced by the nature of testing arrangements in each location. This means the data must be interpreted with caution.
More information can be found on the IHPA website.
The outbreak of COVID‑19 infections and associated national and jurisdiction-based measures influenced the types of presentations to emergency departments in Australia from February 2020.
In the period from February to June 2020:
The average daily number of presentations with a diagnosis related to Injury decreased from 5,800 in the week beginning 17 February and then declined to 3,400 in the week beginning on 30 March.
These trends are likely influenced by the increased restrictions on public and social gatherings and activities, including sporting events and travel restrictions, and availability of other health facilities.
The Emergency department ICD-10-AM (eleventh edition) Principal diagnosis short list was used to group Principal diagnosis into Disease/body system group. For more information, see METeOR.
Presentations were grouped into Emergency department ICD-10-AM (10th edition) Principal Diagnosis Short list Disease/body system group based on the principal diagnosis at the 3-character level.
The visualisation showing body system groups in 2018–19 and 2019–20 includes only presentations assigned a principal diagnosis.
Exceptions to the use of IHPA body system group are:
Projected emergency department presentations were calculated using the average daily emergency department presentations for each month over a six-year period from 2013–14 to 2018–19.
The average change per year was then applied onto the 2018–19 data to create a projection for average daily emergency presentations for each month in
To explore the influence of the COVID‑19 on other health data, further releases are available on the AIHW website under COVID‑19 Resources and The impact of COVID-19 on Australia's health system.
Information on the total confirmed cases and active cases can be found on the Australian Government Department of Health website.
Data are also available on emergency department presentations by hospital or LHN in My local area.
Appendixes and caveat information for this data is available to download in the Info and downloads section.
Definitions of the terms used in this section are available in the Glossary.
An emergency department (ED) presentation occurs following the arrival of the patient at the ED, and commencesat the point of being registered or triaged.
Explore the number of presentations to Australia’s public hospital EDs between 2015–16 and 2019–20 in the data visualisation below.
Information is presented by:
The data can also be explored by:
What other information is available?
Appendix information is available to download in the Info and downloads section.
Reports released prior to 2017–18 can be accessed in the Reports section.
Further information about the concepts on this page can be found in the Glossary.
Patients present to the emergency department (ED) for various reasons. This section presents information on care provided in EDs by:
In the data visualisation below you can explore ED presentations by ICD-10-AM principal diagnosis chapter, age group and sex.
In 2019–20 there were 8.2 million ED presentations, and of these:
Between 2015–16 and 2019–20 the proportion of presentations assigned a triage category of Urgent increased, and the proportions assigned the triage categories of Semi-urgent or Non-urgent decreased.
For more information on triage category see the Glossary.
The mode of arrival relates to how a patient arrives at the ED, whether by ambulance, or another form of transport.
In 2019–20, the majority of presentations to EDs (72%) had an arrival mode of Other which indicates that the patient either walked into the ED, or came by private transport, public transport, community transport, or taxi.
The episode end status describes the status of the patient at the conclusion of the non-admitted patient episode in the emergency department, including whether the patient was subsequently admitted to the hospital.
In the data visualisation, you can explore ED visits by type of presentation.
Appendix information is available to download in the Info and downloads section
Previous emergency department care reports can be accessed in the Reports section.
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