Emergency room physicians say overcrowding and visits from frequent users could be reduced with a coordinated approach to care.
The American College of Emergency Physicians released several studies Tuesday analyzing data about patients who visit EDs frequently. Robert O'Connor, MD, FACEP, and ACEP board member as well as Chair of Emergency Medicine at the University Of Virginia School Of Medicine in Charlottesville, says each study focuses on a different aspect of frequent ED visits, and as a result pointed to a difficult, complex problem.
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"Despite the widespread belief that these patients can be easily redirected in the healthcare system for less expensive care, and that these patients are somehow abusing the system, the reality is much more complicated," says O'Connor.
Patients considered frequent ED visitors varied from study to study because each used a different definition. One California study considered a frequent user to be a one who visited the ED two to three times within six months, while another study in Wisconsin identified a frequent user as someone visiting an ED seven or more times within a year.
O'Connor did not express concern about the lack of uniformity among the studies. In some ways, it reinforces ACEP's position that frequent users are not abusers of the ED.