Objectives: The authors assess the association between having a regular doctor and presentation for nonurgent versus urgent emergency department visits while controlling for potential confounders such as sociodemographics, health status, and comorbidity.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted in emergency departments of five urban teaching hospitals in the northeast. Adult patients presenting with chest pain, abdominal pain, or asthma (n = 1696; 88% of eligible) were studied. Patients completed a survey on presentation, reporting sociodemographics, health status, comorbid diseases, and relationship with a regular doctor. Urgency on presentation was assessed by chart review using explicit criteria.
Results: Of the 1,696 study participants, 852 (50%) presented with nonurgent complaints. In logistic regression analyses, absence of a relationship with a regular physician was an independent correlate of presentation for a nonurgent emergency department visit (odds ratio 1.6; 95% confidence interval 1.2, 2.2) when controlling for age, gender, marital status, health status, and comorbid diseases. Race, lack of insurance, and education were not associated with nonurgent use.
Conclusions: Absence of a relationship with a regular doctor was correlated with use of the emergency department for selected nonurgent conditions when controlling for important potential confounders. Our study suggests that maintaining a relationship with a regular physician may reduce nonurgent use of the emergency department regardless of insurance status or health status.