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Nonurgent Use of the Emergency Department

Redstone, Paul MD; Vancura, Jennifer L. BA; Barry, Daniel MD; Kutner, Jean S. MD, MSPH

Journal of Ambulatory Care Management: October-December 2008 - Volume 31 - Issue 4 - p 370–376
doi: 10.1097/01.JAC.0000336555.54460.fe

Emergency department (ED) overcrowding by low-acuity patients is a recognized problem. There is little in the literature on why patients with minor problems and an established primary care physician (PCP) present to the ED. Two hundred forty low-acuity patients with a PCP were surveyed regarding their reasons for presenting at a University of Colorado ED. Inability to schedule a rapid clinic/office appointment, advice by PCP to utilize the ED, and high self-perceived severity of illness were the primary reasons for ED usage. Increased patient education about the range of conditions appropriate for care in the PCP office and more availability of office appointments could potentially decrease the ED usage by patients with low-acuity problems.

From the Departments of Medicine (General Internal Medicine) and Surgery (Emergency Medicine), University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, Aurora, Colo.

Corresponding author: Paul Redstone, MD, 1635 N. Ursula, Box 6510/F729, Aurora, CO 80045 (e-mail:

The authors thank T.E. Yamashita for statistical help. There was no external funding. Printing costs were paid by the Division of General Internal Medicine.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.