Self-referrals to the A&E department during out-of-hours: patients' motives and characteristics

Eric Peter Moll van Charante, Gerben ter Riet, Patrick Bindels
Patient Education and Counseling 2008, 70 (2): 256-65

OBJECTIVE: To determine self-referrals' motives to visit the accident & emergency departments (AED) and to compare their characteristics to patients contacting the GP cooperative.

METHODS: Postal questionnaires were send to AED self-referrals and logistic regression analysis was used to contrast self-referrals to patients contacting the GP cooperative.

RESULTS: For a study population of 62,000, during 4 months, 5547 contacts were registered with the GP cooperative, along with 808 AED contacts, 344 of whom (43%) were self-referrals. Main reasons to visit the AED were the perceived need for diagnostic facilities and the conviction that the hospital specialist was best qualified to handle the problem. Dissatisfaction with the GP cooperative among respondents was high. Self-referral to the AED was positively associated with injury, age between 15 and 64, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory problems, and distance to the GP centre.

CONCLUSION: Self-referrals emerge as patients with a strong preference for the AED, mainly based on assumptions on quality of care and necessary facilities.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: While self-referrals may, in part, make motivated and appropriate choices to visit the AED, new integrated care models should be studied that can adequately deflect those who are eligible for GP care.

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