Patients Report Unnecessary ED Visits
About half of patients seeking care at an emergency department reported difficulty in getting a same-day doctor's appointment, according to a study released Thursday by the California HealthCare Foundation, the Central Valley Business Times reports.
For the study, CHCF commissioned Harris Interactive to survey separately ED patients and physicians (Central Valley Business Times, 10/26). For the patient survey, 1,402 responses were collected through a phone survey from February through March. More than 500 primary care and ED physicians participated in a mail survey.
The survey found that among all ED patients:
- 46% said a PCP could have provided the treatment they sought in an ED;
- 27% said they had prearranged their ED visit;
- 26% said they needed emergency care; and
- 1% said they did not know if they needed urgent care.
Among ED patients without chronic conditions, the survey found that 46% said they needed a prescription and that 36% said they had experienced an accident.
Medi-Cal beneficiaries were twice as likely to seek care at an ED as privately insured patients, the survey found (Carlson, Modesto Bee, 10/30). Medi-Cal beneficiaries also were more likely to report that EDs provide better care than a physician's office. These patients reported difficulty in finding a physician that accepts Medi-Cal (Central Valley Business Times, 10/26).
Seventy-six percent of primary care physicians reported advising their patients to consider physician visits before the hospital, but 35% of patients reported receiving such advice (Satyanarayana, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 10/28).
According to the Business Times, the patient survey indicates that ED utilization rates can be attributed to:
- Limited access to medical care outside EDs;
- Lack of alternatives to EDs;
- Patients' unfamiliarity with how to handle sudden medical problems; and
- Positive attitudes about the ED (Central Valley Business Times, 10/26).