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Parents Often Choose ER for Routine Kids' Care
Date:11/24/2008

Wait times, frustration with primary care doctors is driving the trend, study finds

MONDAY, Nov. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Parents who take their kids to the emergency room for non-urgent care aren't doing it to abuse the system.

Instead, they're doing so because they have concerns and questions about the care and attention they receive at primary care physicians' offices.

So finds a new study published in the journal Academic Pediatrics. Often, primary care physicians (PCPs) actually refer patients to a hospital emergency department (ED), the researchers found.

"There were three main reasons parents gave [for taking children to the ED for non-urgent concerns] -- problems with the PCP, referral from the PCP, and advantages of care in the emergency department," said study co-author Dr. Jane M. Brotanek, assistant professor of pediatrics and Robert Wood Johnson Physician Faculty Scholar at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

But there's a price to pay for overloaded emergency departments. "If there's an overwhelming number of ED visits, that can cause problems: longer waits, demands on ED staff, adverse events due to delays in care," Brotanek said.

"It points to the fact that the system needs improvement," she continued. "Reduced ED visits for non-urgent visits may require improvements in PCP office access, efficiency, and health care experiences."

According to background information in the article, use of emergency departments rose 18 percent from 1994 to 2004, with children accounting for 25 percent of those visits (28 million visits per year).

And the majority of pediatric emergency room visits (58 percent to 82 percent) are for "non-urgent" conditions.

Still, no one has really looked at why this is so.

The authors interviewed 31 families of children arriving at a children's hospital emergency department on wee
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