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Parents Would Avoid EDs If Primary Care Options Were Readily Available

IOWA CITY, IA – Many parents would be happy to avoid the hassles of taking their child to an emergency department if adequate primary care alternatives were available.

That’s according to a survey conducted in Iowa to identify the factors associated with pediatric emergency department (ED) visits and parental perceptions of the avoidability of their child's ED visit. The results were reported recently in the Emergency Medicine Journal.

To determine that, University of Iowa researchers did a cross-sectional study by performing secondary analysis of 2010–2011 Iowa Child and Family Household Health Survey data, which includes a statewide representative population-based sample of families with at least one child .

Among the eligible households, 2,386 families completed the survey, with a response rate of 80%. Study authors considered the main outcome measures to be a child visiting an ED in the past year as well as parents believing that ED care could have been provided in a primary-care setting.

Results indicate that, among children who needed medical care in the past year, 26% visited an ED. Younger children, non-Hispanic black children, non-Hispanic others, children whose parents were not married, children who were from food-insecure households and had poorer health status were more likely to visit an ED, according to the study.

Having a medical home was not associated with ED visits, however, even after stratifying by the child's health status.

Overall, about 69% of parents who took their child to an ED agreed that emergency care could have been provided in a primary-care setting. A primary-care preventable ED visit was more likely to be reported by parents of children with public insurance, those who were not referred to the ED and those who could not get routine care appointments, the results state.

“The majority of parents believed that pediatric ED visits could be avoided if adequate primary-care alternatives were available,” study authors conclude. “Expanding access to primary care could lead to a reduction in avoidable ED visits by children.”