Study objective: We evaluate the effect of an Internet-based, electronic referral system (termed IMPACT-ED for Improving Medical home and Primary care Access to the Community clinics Through the ED) on access and follow-up at primary care community clinics for safety net emergency department (ED) patients.
Methods: We conducted a nonblinded interventional trial at an urban, safety net, hospital ED with a census of 39,000 annually. IMPACT-ED identified patients who had no source of regular care and lived in a 15-ZIP-code low-income area served by 3 community clinics. Emergency physicians received an automated notification through the electronic medical record to access an imbedded software program for scheduling follow-up clinic appointments. Patients who would benefit from a follow-up clinic visit within 2 weeks as determined by the emergency physician received a computer-generated appointment time and clinic map with bus routes as part of their discharge instructions, and the clinics received an electronic notification of the appointment. We compared frequency of follow-up for a 6-month period before implementation when patients received written instructions to call the clinic on their own (pre-IMPACT) and 6 months after implementation (post-IMPACT). Statistical analysis was conducted with chi(2) testing, and corresponding 95% confidence intervals are presented.
Results: There were 326 patients who received an appointment (post-IMPACT), of whom 81 followed up at the clinic as directed (24.8%), compared with 399 patients who received a referral (pre-IMPACT), of whom 4 followed up as directed (1.0%), for an absolute improvement of 23.8% (95% confidence interval 19.1% to 28.6%).
Conclusion: Although most patients still failed to follow up at the community clinics as directed, the use of an Internet-based scheduling program linking a safety net ED with local community clinics significantly improved the frequency of follow-up for patients without primary care.