Preliminary assessment of appropriateness of emergency care service use: Actions taken and consultations obtained before emergency care presentation

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Inappropriate use of emergency care services can increase hospital readmissions and related costs. This pilot, cross-sectional survey project determined whether home health care patients who receive emergency care services during a Medicare-approved home care episode sought consultation from health care professionals before they made the emergency care visit. The two research questions were: (a) What actions were taken by the patient before making an emergency care visit?; (b) If prior consultation was obtained, what were the suggestions? Preliminary data were obtained from a Michigan-based, Medicare-certified, not-for-profit home health agency affiliated with a university health system. A two-page questionnaire recorded up to three emergency care visits. Volunteer participants were Medicare patients who had no cognitive deficits and were able to communicate with home health care providers (HHCPs) by themselves. Thirty-five emergency care visits were reported; 31 (88.6%) Medicare patients participated and 4 (11.4%) of them had two emergency care visits. Before the patients made an emergency care visit, they most often called their primary care physicians (PCPs; N = 20, 57.1%), followed by the HHCPs (N = 10, 28.6%). All 20 patients who contacted their PCPs and 7 patients who contacted their HHCPs were advised to seek emergency care services. In 20 emergency care visits the patient was admitted for an acute hospital stay; the other 15 patients went home. Most patients contacted their PCPs or HHCPs before they went to an emergency department or urgent care facility. These results implied that PCPs and HHCPs seemed to perceive that the need for emergency care should be determined at an emergency room or urgent care facility. This study was unable to differentiate the need for emergency care services or the appropriateness of the advice given by PCPs or HHCPs when the home care patients were under the care of a medical team.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-23
Number of pages14
JournalHome Health Care Services Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Emergency care
  • Emergency medical services
  • Health care quality assurance
  • Health care quality indicator
  • Home care services
  • Home health agency
  • Medicare
  • Urgent care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Community and Home Care
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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