Why parents use the emergency department during evening hours for nonemergent pediatric care

Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2014 Oct;53(11):1055-61. doi: 10.1177/0009922814540988. Epub 2014 Jul 2.


Background: Emergency departments (EDs) are commonly used by pediatric patients for nonemergent reasons. There is little information regarding how parents perceive their use of the ED and primary care availability during evening hours.

Methods: We conducted a survey of parental perspectives of ED use during evening hours. Participants were parents of pediatric patients (age 0-18 years) at a large quaternary medical center's ED presenting between 17:00 and 22:00 hours from January 15, 2013 to March 12, 2013.

Results: Most patients had a primary care pediatrician (98/102, 96.1%); 80% of their pediatricians (78/98) did not have evening hour availability. Overall, 46.7% of parents would have preferred to go to their primary care pediatrician.

Conclusions: Many parents who expect outpatient treatment prefer to take their child to a primary care pediatrician during evening hours, but present to the ED because of lack of primary care access.

Keywords: emergency department utilization; inappropriate use of health services; pediatric primary care; primary care office utilization.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • After-Hours Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Arizona
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys / methods*
  • Health Care Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Misuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Parents*
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data
  • Pediatrics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data