Patients who can’t reach their primary care physicians after hours are more likely to go to the ED, or go without medical care, according to a study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC).
Funded by the National Institute for Health Care Reform, the study tracked 9,577 respondents with a usual source of primary care, and found that of 1,470 who tried to contact their PCP after hours in the previous 12 months, 20.8 percent reported it was “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to reach a clinician after hours. After adjusting for age, health status and other factors, the study found that these people were more likely to report an ED visit or go without needed medical care, compared to those who described their after-hours access experience as “not at all difficult” or “not too difficult.”
In particular, those who reported more difficulty accessing after-hours care had higher rates of ED use, 38 percent vs. 30 percent for those with less difficulty, and higher rates of unmet medical need, 14 percent vs. 6 percent.
Other key study findings include:
- Among people with a usual source of primary care, 40.2 percent reported that their practice offered extended hours, such as at night or on weekends.
- Children, people in better health, those with private insurance and people using a practice that offers after-hours visits were all less likely to experience difficulty in accessing after-hours care, even after controlling for other factors.
Source: Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC), December 12, 2012
27 Interventions to Reduce Avoidable ER Use details provider- and patient-focused interventions that target the high numbers of avoidable visits, high and ultra-high utilizers and the sub-populations noted for frequent ER use.