Emergency department (ED) overcrowding is a growing problem, and pediatric patients are contributing. In this study, we aimed to determine which factors influence parents or guardians to choose the ED over their primary care physician (PCP).
A cross-sectional, online survey was administered in an academic hospital pediatric ED from September to October 2017. The 21-question survey was offered to the parents or guardians of pediatric patients triaged as low acuity. The survey assessed establishment and availability of their PCP, perception of illness or injury severity, reasons for choosing the ED, and demographic information.
A total of 101 surveys were collected, with a 95% completion rate. Most patients had an established PCP. More than two-thirds did not attempt to contact their PCP prior to their ED visit. Nearly half stated their PCP did not offer after-hours or weekend availability. Most did not feel their child's condition was serious. Almost half would have waited to see their PCP if they could be seen within 24 hours.
There appears to be a common misperception that PCPs do not offer extended hours. In addition, the parent or guardian's perception of severity was oftentimes more serious than perceived by medical staff. These results suggest that improving health literacy among our patient population by educating them on PCP availability and capability, ancillary services offered by PCP, and appropriate usage of the ED could potentially reduce nonurgent ED visits.