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Healthc Policy. 2008 Aug;4(1):73-88.

Emergency Department and Walk-in Clinic Use in Models of Primary Care Practice with Different After-Hours Accessibility in Ontario.

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Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON.



New models of primary healthcare delivery recently implemented in Ontario are designed to improve after-hours accessibility. This study examined whether the six-month prevalence of emergency department and walk-in clinic use differed among patients of eight Family Health Network (FHN), 16 Family Health Group (FHG) and 12 fee-for-service (FFS) physicians in one city.


Patients over one year of age who had visited their family doctor in the previous 12 months (n=9,373) were randomly selected from computerized records. A mailed survey asked about urgent health problems in the previous six months and use of health services for those problems. A generalized estimating equation approach was used to compare the proportions of patients using the emergency department and walk-in clinic in the FHN versus other practice types, adjusting for clustering of patients within practices. Multiple imputation was used to impute data for non-respondents and missing items on the surveys.


The response rate was 62.3% (5,884/9,373). Six-month prevalence of emergency department use was 11.4% (199/1,753) among the FHN practices, 15.7% (347/2,236) among the FHG practices (odds ratio [OR] = 1.47; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.21-1.80) and 14.3% (252/1,779) among the FFS practices (OR=1.33; 95% CI=1.12-1.59). Six-month prevalence of walk-in clinic use was 1.7% (30/1,723) among the FHN practices versus 1.9% (41/2,236) in the FHG practices (OR=1.07; 95% CI=0.68-1.68) and 3.4% (59/1,779) among the FFS practices (OR=2.08; 95% CI=1.41-3.08). The statistical significance of results was unchanged using multiple imputation.


Patients' use of the emergency department and walk-in clinics differs across primary care practice models with different after-hours accessibility arrangements and incentives.


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