Utilization of emergency department in patients with non-urgent medical problems: patient preference and emergency department convenience

J Formos Med Assoc. 2010 Jul;109(7):533-42. doi: 10.1016/S0929-6646(10)60088-5.


Background/purpose: We investigated the factors associated with emergency department (ED) use among patients with non-urgent medical problems, with a focus on convenience and preference to use the ED instead of primary care clinics.

Methods: A five-level triage system was adopted by research nurses to decide each patient's triage level and the maximum time to physician interview. Patients who had a maximum time to physician interview of more than 60 minutes were assumed to be non-urgent in this study.

Results: More than half of ED visits were considered to be non-urgent. Non-urgent patients were more likely to be unmarried, government employees, visit the ED due to trauma, have a history of chronic illness, and present in the day time or at the weekend. ED visits were also more likely to occur in patients who took less than 15 minutes to reach the ED, chose the ED for its convenience, agreed that they could have chosen another facility for their visit, did not agree that the ED was convenient for receiving medical care. Multivariate logistic regression showed that marital status, time of presentation, time needed to get to the ED, and occupation were associated with non-urgent ED visits.

Conclusion: Preference for using EDs for medical care and their convenience might contribute to non-urgent ED visits. A five-level triage system reliably stratified patients with different admission rates and utilization of medical resources, and could be helpful for reserving limited medical resources for more urgent patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Taiwan
  • Time Factors
  • Triage
  • Young Adult