Extended office hours reduce ED use

July 16, 2013

Pediatric primary care offices that offer evening hours at least 5 nights per week cut their clients’ use of emergency departments (EDs) in half, a new study finds.

 

Pediatric primary care offices that offer evening hours at least 5 nights per week cut their clients’ use of emergency departments (EDs) in half, a new study finds.

In fact, the study concludes that extended office hours may be the single most effective way to reduce ED usage.

Researchers from Michigan designed an Internet-based survey for parents nationwide. They queried 820 parents about their pediatricians’ office practices and about their use of an ED for their children during the previous 12 months. Response rate was 41%.

The investigators found that the vast majority (80%) of parents could access advice from their pediatricians by telephone during office hours, and 79% could schedule same-day sick visits for their children. A little over half (54%) said that they could get advice by telephone outside normal business hours. Just under half (47%) said they could access their child’s primary care office on weekends.

Less than one-quarter (23%) of parents surveyed said they could access their child’s primary care office after 5 pm on any night, and only 13% could access their primary care physician by e-mail. Although it varied with the service being discussed, up to half the respondents did not know whether the above extended access services were offered by their pediatric primary care provider.

The researchers believe their findings are an important first step in understanding how primary care practices can be most effective. Many extended access services are costly to implement. Studies such as these help identify where to get the biggest bang for the buck. The study also demonstrates the importance of communicating implemented extended access services to clients.

According to a National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief, about 1 in every 5 children aged 0 to 17 years has visited an ED at least once in the previous 12 months. 

 

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