Does better access to primary care reduce utilization of hospital accident and emergency departments? A time-series analysis

Eur J Public Health. 2007 Apr;17(2):186-92. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckl085. Epub 2006 Jun 3.


Background: Availability of primary care emergency facilities has been improved to help curb heavy growth in the use of Accident and Emergency Departments (A&EDs). The aim of this paper is to analyse the relationship between time series for visits to hospital A&EDs and primary care centres.

Methods: Using a co-integration time series we analyse the visits to the emergency services of the county hospital and seven healthcare primary centres in the healthcare district of Mieres, Asturias, España, during the period 1992-1999. The main outcome measured is the relationship between the time series for emergency visits to the primary care centres and the hospital A&ED, for groups aged 0-14 years, over 14 years and the total.

Results: A total of 506,158 visits to the emergency services of the primary care centres (62.4%) and hospital A&ED (37.6%) have been studied. Emergency visits rose by 40.9% during the period studied (50.3% in primary care centres and 26.5% in the hospital). The gross rise in visits was higher for adults (51.2%) than for 0-14 year olds (6.6%). The co-integration time-series analysis showed that in both age groups and in the total, there was a significant and positive relationship between the primary care and hospital series, indicating that the use of both services had grown simultaneously. The use of the hospital services did not decrease as a result of the increase in primary care services.

Conclusions: The rise in use of primary care emergency services did not reduce use of the hospital A&ED.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Community Health Centers / organization & administration
  • Community Health Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Services Misuse
  • Hospitals, County
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Models, Econometric
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Spain
  • Stochastic Processes
  • Time Factors
  • Utilization Review