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Study finds more Americans bypassing their personal physician when immediate treatment required
Date:9/7/2010

Only 45 percent of the 354 million annual visits for acute care in the United States are made to patients' personal physicians, as Americans increasingly make busy emergency departments, specialists or outpatient care departments their first point of contact for treatment of new health problems or a flare up of a chronic condition like asthma or diabetes.

The findings, which appear in the September edition of Health Affairs, do not bode well for the nation's already busy and frequently undermanned emergency rooms. While fewer than five percent of doctors across the U.S. are emergency physicians, they handle more than 28 percent of all acute care encounters - and more than half of acute care visits by the under-and uninsured.

According to co-authors including Steven Pitts, MD, associate professor of medicine in the Emory School of Medicine and a staff physician at Emory University Hospital Midtown, and Arthur Kellermann, MD, the Paul O'Neill Alcoa Chair in Policy Analysis at the RAND Corporation and previous associate dean for health policy at Emory University, health reform provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that advance patient-centered medical homes and accountable care organizations are intended to improve access to acute care. However, the challenge for reform, according to study authors, will be to succeed in the complex acute care landscape that already exists.

"Timely access to care is important, especially for those who are acutely ill. First-contact care has been a central tenet of primary care. But over the past few decades, the focus of primary care has shifted as a result of a growing elderly population, the growing burden of chronic disease and the challenge of coordinating care across multiple physicians," says Pitts. "Low rates of reimbursement have accelerated this trend by forcing many primary care physicians to pack their daily schedules with 15-minute office visits leaving litt
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Contact: Lance Skelly
lance.skelly@emoryhealthcare.org
404-686-8538
Emory University
Source:Eurekalert

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