Background and objectives: A substantial proportion of emergency department (ED) visits by children are for non-urgent care. The objective of this research is to determine whether a parent-focused educational intervention can reduce non-urgent ED visits.
Methods: A regional hospital system (which includes a central hospital, four satellite hospitals, and two primary care clinics) provided monthly data retrospectively from January 2006 to October 2007 on ED visits by children. The same information was provided prospectively from November 2007 to April 2009. Starting in November 2007, a family medicine residency program affiliated with the same hospital network distributed a 6.7 grade reading level booklet on non-urgent care of children to the parents who brought their children to the outpatient clinic. The number of ED visits as a proportion of outpatient clinic visits at the residency program was calculated for each month and compared to historical and geographic trends.
Results: Long-term changes were observed only among the intervention group. There was a substantial and statistically significant reduction in ED use for non-urgent care of children. There was also a proportional reduction in ED charges for this group.
Conclusion: An educational intervention among parents can substantially reduce non-urgent ED visits for their children.