The relationship between pediatrician availability and emergency department (ED) attendance is uncertain. We determined whether children in counties with more pediatricians had fewer ED visits.
We conducted a cross-sectional study of all ED visits among children younger than 18 years from 6 states. We obtained ED visit incidences by county and assessed the relationship to pediatrician density (pediatricians per 1000 children). Possible confounders included state, presence of an urgent care facility in the county, urban-rural status, and quartile of county-level characteristics: English-speaking, Internet access, White race, socioeconomic status, and public insurance. We estimated county-level changes in incidence by pediatrician density adjusting for state and separately for all possible confounders.
Each additional pediatrician per 1000 children was associated with a 13.7% (95% confidence interval, −19.6% to −7.5%) decrease in ED visits in the state-adjusted model. In the full model, there was no association (−1.4%, 95% confidence interval, −7.2% to 4.8%). The presence of an urgent care, higher socioeconomic status score, urban status, and higher proportions of White race and nonpublic insurance were each associated with decreased ED visit rates.
Pediatrician density is not associated with decreased ED visits after adjusting for other county demographic factors. Increasing an area's availability of pediatricians may not affect ED attendance.