ACEP: Most Patients Call Doctor Prior to Emergency Visit

Those who visit emergency rooms feel the problem is urgent or are referred by a doctor

MONDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthDay News) -- More than half of patients with non-emergent complaints call their primary care physicians (PCPs) prior to visiting the emergency department; and many patients with minor complaints prefer the emergency department to their PCP due to self-perceived urgency or referral by their PCP, according to two studies presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians, held from Oct. 15 to 18 in San Francisco.

Michael F. Kamali, M.D., from the University of Rochester in New York, and colleagues investigated whether patients called their PCPs prior to coming to the emergency department with non-emergent complaints, and whether there were any difference between the group who called their PCPs (call group) and the group that did not. Of the 303 patients with PCPs, 54.7 percent were in the call group. Patients in the call group were more likely to be white, privately insured, and perceived that they would be sooner seen by their PCPs than those not in call group.

In a second study, Kamali and colleagues analyzed the reasons why patients prefer to visit the emergency department for minor complaints rather than seeing their PCP. Of the 400 patients analyzed, 36 percent chose the emergency department because they perceived their problems to be urgent, 33.4 percent were referred to the emergency department by their PCP, 12.5 percent were unable to get a timely appointment with the PCP, and 11 percent preferred emergency departments because they offered more services than their PCP.

"This result may reflect a trend seen in health care where overburdened PCP practices refer patients to the emergency department," write the authors of the second study.

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