Socioeconomic status -- such as insurance status, education, employment status and income -- largely is the reason behind higher emergency department use rates among minorities, a study in the Journal of Emergency Medicine found.
Of all the independent variables studied, insurance status was the strongest predictor of ED use, even stronger than race or ethnicity, the study found. While socioeconomic status seemed to account for higher ED use among minorities, researchers said the finding was true only if they accounted for multiple indicators.
Researchers also found that minorities had different perceptions of ED care, and that combined with socioeconomic differences indicated that minority patients used the ED because they were less likely to have insurance, more likely to have lower incomes and also less likely to have access to acute medical care other than the ED.
The authors suggest that policymakers and health care officials consider:
- Expanding access to low-cost primary care for low-income patients;
- Integrating case management into EDs to help link patients to primary care; and
- Improving access to alternate means of immediate acute care (Hong et al., Journal of Emergency Medicine, February 2007).