Anticipating increases in hospital emergency department (ED) visits for respiratory illness could help time interventions such as opening flu clinics to reduce surges in ED visits. Five different methods for estimating ED visits for respiratory illness from Telehealth Ontario calls are compared, including two non-linear modeling methods. Daily visit estimates up to 14 days in advance were made at the health unit level for all 36 Ontario health units.
Telehealth calls from June 1, 2004 to March 14, 2006 were included. Estimates generated by regression, Exponentially Weighted Moving Average (EWMA), Numerical Methods for Subspace State Space Identification (N4SID), Fast Orthogonal Search (FOS), and Parallel Cascade Identification (PCI) were compared to the actual number of ED visits for respiratory illness identified from the National Ambulatory Care Reporting System (NACRS) database. Model predictor variables included Telehealth Ontario calls and upcoming holidays/weekends. Models were fit using the first 304 days of data and prediction accuracy was measured over the remaining 348 days.