The Impact of Primary Care Provider Availability on Patient Care
26 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2017
Date Written: Jun 10, 2017
Emergency room (ER) overcrowding and overuse are significant problems in the United States, and prior studies have shown that a large portion of ER patients could have been treated by a primary care provider. If this is the case, why do patients spend hours waiting in the ER for a problem that their primary care physician could have addressed? One common answer is that primary care providers are too busy to provide timely appointments, making the ER a more attractive alternative for their patients. In this paper, we use a large dataset from the Veterans Health Administration to shed light on this claim. Our empirical analyses reveal that decreased provider availability leads to increases in non-emergent ER visits (care not needed within 12 hours), but we find no evidence linking provider availability to emergent, primary care treatable ER visits. Overall, changes to provider availability can account for up to 2.4% of all ER visits. Decreased provider availability also leads to delays in routine care, as measured by the likelihood of a 30-day follow-up appointment after an ER visit.
Keywords: Health Care Operations, Primary Care, Access to Care, Emergency Room
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