The next step to reducing emergency department (ED) crowding: Engaging specialist physicians

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Background Much work on reducing ED utilization has focused on primary care practices, but few studies have examined ED visits from patients followed by specialists, especially when the ED visit is related to the specialist’s clinical practice. Objective To determine the proportion and characteristics of patients that utilized the ED for specialty-related diagnosis. Methods Retrospective, population-based, cohort study was conducted using information from electronic health records and billing database between January 2016 and December 2016. Patients who had seen a specialist during the last five years from the index ED visit date were included. The identification of ED visits attributable to specialists was based on the primary diagnosis of ED visits and the frequency of visit with specialists within a given timeframe. Results Approximately 28% of ED visits analyzed were attributable to specialists. ED visits attributed specialists were represented by older patients and occurred more during working hours and early days of week. The most common diagnoses related to ED visits attributed to specialists were Circulatory, Musculoskeletal, Skin, Breast and Mental. Multiple departments, subdivisions and specialists were involved with each ED visit. The number of specialists following the patients who visited the ED ranged from one to six and the number of departments/subdivisions ranged from one to four. Patients that used the ED often were more likely to belong to departments (OR = 1.53) and specialists (OR = 1.18) associated with high ED utilization patterns. Conclusion Patients coming to the ED with specialty-related complaints are unique and require full engagement of the specialist and the specialty group. This study offers a new view of connections patients have with their specialists and engaging specialists both at department level and individual specialist level may be an important factor to reduce ED overcrowding.




Kim, J., Yun, B. J., Aaronson, E. L., Kaafarani, H. M. A., Linov, P., Rao, S. K., … Lee, J. (2018). The next step to reducing emergency department (ED) crowding: Engaging specialist physicians. PLoS ONE, 13(8).

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