An intervention connecting low-acuity emergency department patients with primary care: effect on future primary care linkage

Ann Emerg Med. 2013 Mar;61(3):312-321.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2012.10.021. Epub 2012 Dec 20.


Study objective: Our objective is to determine whether a point-of-care intervention that navigates willing, low-acuity patients from the emergency department (ED) to a Primary Care Clinic will increase future primary care follow-up.

Methods: We conducted a quasi-experimental trial at an urban safety net hospital. Adults presenting to the ED for select low-acuity problems were eligible. Patients were excluded if arriving by emergency medical services, if febrile, or if the triage nurse believed they required ED care. We enrolled 965 patients. Navigators escorted a subset of willing participants to the Primary Care Clinic (in the same hospital complex), where they were assigned a personal physician, were given an overview of clinic services, and received same-day clinic care. The primary outcome was Primary Care Clinic follow-up within 1 year of the index ED visit among patients having no previous primary care provider.

Results: In the bivariate intention-to-treat analysis, 50.3% of intervention group patients versus 36.9% of control group patients with no previous primary care provider had at least 1 Primary Care Clinic follow-up visit in the year after the intervention. In the multivariable analysis, the absolute difference in having at least 1 Primary Care Clinic follow-up for the intervention group compared with the control group was 9.3% (95% confidence interval 2.2% to 16.3%). There was no significant difference in the number of future ED visits.

Conclusion: A point-of-care intervention offering low-acuity ED patients the opportunity to alternatively be treated at the hospital's Primary Care Clinic resulted in increased future primary care follow-up compared with standard ED referral practices.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Continuity of Patient Care / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention to Treat Analysis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Care
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data