Emergency departments (EDs) are overcrowded by lower acuity patients, which might be more efficiently treated by general practitioners (GPs). This study evaluated the impact of triaging lower acuity patients to a new hospital-integrated general practice (HGP) on ED case-load and the reasons for choosing the ED/HGP.
METHODS AND RESULTS
Patients were consecutively assessed according to the emergency severity index (ESI) to triage lower acuity patients to the HGP. Consultation numbers at the emergency centre (ED and HGP) increased by 43% between 2007 (n = 16 974) and 2011 (n = 24 331) (implementation of HGP in 2009). Although self-referrals increased significantly at the emergency centre from 54% to 63% (p <0.001), the proportion of self-referrals at the ED was significantly reduced to 48% (p = 0.007). The HGP was able to reduce the burden of increasing total consultations by 36%; 4.6% were referred back to the ED after triaging to the HGP. Overall, 95% of HGP patients were self-referred, Swiss nationals (65%) and with a personal GP (82%) they attended regularly (69%). The most common reason for presenting at the emergency centre was not being able to reach the GP (60%). Diagnoses were injury- (29%) and infection- (23%) related problems affecting the musculoskeletal (27%) system and skin (21%).
The HGP succeeded in reducing the burden of inappropriate ED use: the majority of low acuity self-referred patients were conclusively treated at the HGP. The HGP does not represent competition to the GP out-of-hours care service, since the main reason for presenting at the hospital was not lacking a relationship but the GPs' inaccessibility.