Background: The annual number of emergency department (ED) visits in the United States increased 23% between 1997 and 2007. The uninsured and those with chronic medical conditions are high users of emergency care.
Objective: We sought to determine whether access to comprehensive outpatient primary and specialty care and care coordination provided by The Access Partnership (TAP) reduced ED utilization among uninsured patients relative to patients who chose not to enroll.
Methods: Multiple time series analysis was performed to examine rates of ED utilization and inpatient admission among TAP patients and a comparison group of eligible patients who did not join (non-TAP patients). Monthly ED utilization and inpatient admission rates for both groups were examined prior to and subsequent to referral to TAP, within a study period 2007-2011.
Results: During the study period, 623 patients were eligible to enroll, and 374 joined the program. Rates of ED visits per month increased in both groups. Compared with non-TAP patients, TAP patients had 2.0 fewer ED visits not leading to admission per 100 patient-months post-TAP (P = .03, 95% confidence interval = 0.2-3.9). TAP status was a moderate predictor of ED visits not leading to admission, after controlling for age, gender, and zip code (P = .04, 95% confidence interval = 0.1-3.9).
Conclusions: Although overall ED utilization did not change significantly between program participants and nonparticipants, TAP patients had a lower rate of ED visits not resulting in inpatient admission relative to the comparison group.
Keywords: access to care; emergency care; health care delivery; primary care; uninsured.