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Extended primary care office hours might help keep kids out of the emergency department
Date:6/19/2013

Ann Arbor, Mich. Children had half as many emergency department visits if their primary care office had evening office hours on five or more days a week, according to new research from child health experts at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and Johns Hopkins University.

The new study was published online this month in The Journal of Pediatrics and will be presented at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting.

"These findings are an important step in understanding where primary care practices and medical home programs can be most effective in making changes to enhance access," says U-M pediatrician Joe Zickafoose, M.D., M.S., formerly a research fellow with the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and now a health researcher with Mathematica Policy Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Primary care practices for children around the country are working on ways to make it easier for families to communicate with the practice to get advice and make an appointment. A key goal of these efforts is to help parents avoid the stress and expense of unnecessary emergency department visits, and extending office hours into the evening might be an effective way to do this, says Zickafoose.

Efforts around the country to improve health care for children have increasingly focused on the "medical home" as a model to make primary care practices more accessible, comprehensive, and focused on quality improvement. A central aspect of the medical home approach is to enhance families' options for accessing their child's primary care practice, including 24-hour phone advice, email or patient portal communication, same-day sick visits, and evening and weekend office hours.

The investigators found that many parents did not know whether enhanced access services were available in their child's primary care office. Children whose parents reported that their offices had evening hours
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Contact: Mary F. Masson
mfmasson@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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