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Am J Med Qual. 2015 Mar-Apr;30(2):135-40. doi: 10.1177/1062860614521278. Epub 2014 Feb 5.

Primary care access barriers as reported by nonurgent emergency department users: implications for the US primary care infrastructure.

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The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.


The objective was to explore variation by insurance status in patient-reported barriers to accessing primary care. The authors fielded a brief, anonymous, voluntary survey of nonurgent emergency department (ED) visits at a large academic medical center and conducted descriptive analysis and thematic coding of 349 open-ended survey responses. The privately insured predominantly reported primary care infrastructure barriers-wait time in clinic and for an appointment, constraints related to conventional business hours, and difficulty finding a primary care provider (because of geography or lack of new patient openings). Half of those insured by Medicaid and/or Medicare also reported these infrastructure barriers. In contrast, the uninsured predominantly reported insurance, income, and transportation barriers. Given that insured nonurgent ED users frequently report infrastructure barriers, these should be the focus of patient-level interventions to reduce nonurgent ED use and of health system-level policies to enhance the capacity of the US primary care infrastructure.


access to care; emergency department; health policy; primary care

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