Frequent use of hospital emergency departments is more closely linked to overall health status than to insurance status or availability of a usual source of care, according to a study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. Patients without health insurance are only slightly more likely to use ED services more frequently than insured people, and individuals who reported having no regular health care provider actually are less likely to use ED services more frequently than people with a regular source of health care, the authors found.
Researchers studied the responses of the Community Tracking Study Household Survey from 2000 through 2001 to determine the characteristics of people who visited EDs four or more times annually, relative to less-frequent visitors.
Researchers concluded that frequent ED users also might use all care outlets frequently and that their ED use might be appropriate given their generally lower health status. Researchers suggest that policies intended to decrease frequent ED use might be most effective if they focus on improving health care delivery services, especially because both frequent and infrequent ED users likely would benefit from such efforts (Hunt et al., Annals of Emergency Medicine, July 2006).
Awareness of a federal law requiring health care providers to offer language assistance services for patients with limited English skills does not lead to a greater use of such services, a study in the July issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine finds. Researchers suggest that the laws do not adequately provide limited English speakers with access to language assistance.
Researchers surveyed 1,200 California residents -- 83% of whom had limited English skills -- about:
- Their English proficiency;
- Languages spoken by their primary care providers; and
- Use of health care services and interpreters.
According to the study, language assistance laws lack the enforcement and resources needed to make them more effective. Researchers suggest that technology such as videoconferencing could allow health care providers to share resources and improve access to interpreters. The authors also suggest that health care facilities better analyze their patients' needs to determine whether they offer appropriate services to limited English speakers that will improve the quality of care.
The study concludes that interpreter laws alone are inadequate to improve quality and access to care (Grubbs et al., Journal of General Internal Medicine, July 2006). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.