The question of why so many people use emergency departments rather than other primary care services such as doctor’s offices and walk-in clinics was the focus of this project. It sought to develop a transferable tool that could be used to measure people’s perceptions about primary care access, to profile patients using emergency departments for primary care, and to identify barriers to the use of other primary care environments. Data were collected from patient surveys, a literature review, telephone interviews, community groups, and regional sources. Although the project did produce a demographic profile of the patient population, it has not yet developed a transferable tool or identified barriers to alternative primary care. The study found that most patients try to contact a health professional or non-professional before going to the emergency department but are driven to use emergency departments by a sense of worry and urgency. Overall, it found that most patients arriving at the emergency department were not frequent users of the facility for primary care.
The full report for this project is available on the Alberta Health and Wellness web site at http://www.health.gov.ab.ca/system/key/phc/projects/Calgary/EmergencyDepartmentChoices/description.htm
This project was supported by the Health Transition Fund, which was created in 1997 to provide support for evidence-based decision-making in health care reform by supporting pilot and evaluation projects which test innovative approaches to health care delivery. The views expressed herein do no necessarily represent the official policy of federal, provincial, or territorial governments.