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Analyzing Why Patients Seek ED Care

Analyzing Why Patients Seek ED Care

According to CDC data, the number of annual visits to EDs across the United States has steadily risen each year. And ED crowding continues to be a significant issue throughout the country due to progressive increases in patient volume. In addition to long wait times and frustration from ED patients, ED crowding has been associated with the risk of poor health outcomes. Several theories have been proposed as to why these trends have persisted over the years. The growing number of medically uninsured people has been identified as a major culprit, but national initiatives like the Affordable Care Act have attempted to curb this issue. Other research suggests that access to care and constraints on provider capacity may serve as important drivers of ED use. Further complicating matters is the nation’s current shortage of primary care providers (PCPs). Measuring Patient Perspectives “Few studies have attempted to measure the perspectives of patients on why they choose the ED to receive their medical care,” says John T. Nagurney, MD, MPH. In a study published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Nagurney, Lana Lobachova, MD, MBA, and other colleagues from Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston sought to measure the distribution and frequency of the reasons why patients chose the ED for their care. In this study, patients presenting to an ED with 92,000 annual visits were surveyed. According to the results, the most common reason patients gave for coming to the ED was their belief that their problem was serious (Table 1). In addition, more than one-third was referred by a healthcare provider. “Only about one-third of patients...
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