English language proficiency and hospital admissions via the emergency department by aged care residents in Australia: A mixed-methods investigation

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Residents of Residential Age Care Facilities (RACFs) have particularly high rates of Emergency Department (ED) visits, with up to 55% being potentially avoidable (e.g. not resulting in a hospital admission). This is concerning as ED visits by RACF residents are associated with negative outcomes including longer hospital stays, iatrogenic illness, complications and mortality. Limited English proficiency (LEP) has significant negative impacts on the healthcare quality and outcomes for older people but has not been studied as a factor in ED visits from RACFs. This study aimed to examine if RACF residents with LEP have a lower rate of hospital admission via the ED compared to non-LEP controls and identify any associated factors. We hypothesised that LEP-related communication difficulties would reduce the ability to manage minor health issues in the RACF, leading to a lower proportion of LEP ED transfers being admitted. We used a parallel mixed-methods design, comprising a quantitative matched cohort study of ED visit data from two Local Hospital Networks (LHNs) in South-East Melbourne, Australia and secondary thematic analysis of 25 interviews with LEP residents, family carers and staff from two RACFs in the same region. We found no differences in the proportion of hospital ED transfers that led to admission (LHN1, 87.1% LEP, 85.6% non-LEP controls, p = 0.57; LHN2, 76.0% LEP, 76.9% non-LEP controls, p = 0.41) and no direct qualitative evidence suggesting that resident LEP affected decisions to transfer residents to ED, despite communication difficulties being reported during the transfer process. These results may be due to the high level of family carer involvement in residents’ care identified in the qualitative study. However, additional research using different measures of LEP is recommended to further explore a broader range of cultural and linguistic factors in both rates of ED presentations and the decision-making processes underpinning resident transfers to ED.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e4006-e4019
Number of pages14
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • care of elderly people
  • emergency department
  • interpreters
  • language
  • limited english proficiency
  • nursing homes

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