Nonurgent use of the emergency department

J Ambul Care Manage. 2008 Oct-Dec;31(4):370-6. 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.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Colorado
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Crowding
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Services Misuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Primary Health Care / standards
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sampling Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time and Motion Studies