Identifying barriers to emergency care services

Int J Health Plann Manage. 2012 Apr-Jun;27(2):e104-20. doi: 10.1002/hpm.1098.


Objective: This paper aims to present a review of published evidence of barriers to emergency care, with attention towards both financial and other barriers.

Method: With the keywords (financial) accessibility, barriers and emergency care services, citations in PubMed were searched and further selected in the context of the objective of this article.

Results: Forty articles, published over a period of 15 years, showed evidence of significant barriers to emergency care. These barriers often tend to persist, despite the fact that the evidence was published many years ago. Several publications stressed the importance of the financial barriers in foregoing or delaying potentially life-saving emergency services, both in poor and rich countries. Other publications report non-financial barriers that prevent patients in need of emergency care (pre-hospital and in-patient care) from seeking care, from arriving in the proper emergency department without undue delay or from receiving proper treatment when they do arrive in these departments.

Conclusion: It is clear that timely access to life-saving and disability-preventing emergency care is problematic in many settings. Yet, low-cost measures can likely be taken to significantly reduce these barriers. It is time to make an inventory of these measures and to implement the most cost-effective ones worldwide.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Financial Support
  • Global Health
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans