Where do family practice patients go in case of emergency?

Can Fam Physician. 1998 Dec:44:2666-72.


Objective: To determine the annual incidence of patient-defined emergencies and patients' use of emergency services at a family medicine teaching unit.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: Hospital-based family medicine teaching unit in Montreal.

Participants: Registered patients attending a family medicine teaching unit during 11 consecutive weekdays.

Main outcome measures: Annual incidence of patient-defined medical emergencies and use of emergency services at the unit.

Results: Eligible patients made 815 visits during the study period; 584 usable questionnaires were returned for a response rate of 71.7%. In the previous 12 months, 37% of patients reported at least one medical emergency. For their last emergency, 42% reported using at least one of the emergency services offered by the clinic. Only 19% of patients with after-hours emergencies reported using our on-call system. Although socioeconomic and clinical variables did not predict the incidence of patient-defined emergencies, multivariate analysis revealed three significant predictors for use: patients with the practice for 5 or more years were more likely to use our services, while patients 75 and older and those with emergencies after hours were less likely to use our services.

Conclusions: In an urban group family practice, annual incidence of medical emergencies among registered patients was 37%. Those whose most recent emergency occurred after hours used the clinics' emergency on-call services disappointingly little.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital*
  • Quebec
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Population