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Am J Emerg Med. 2019 Aug 2:158384. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2019.158384. [Epub ahead of print]

Randomized controlled trial to improve primary care follow-up among emergency department patients.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Brown University, 55 Claverick Street, Providence, RI 02903, United States of America. Electronic address:
Department of Emergency Medicine, George Washington University, Washington, DC, United States of America.
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, United States of America.
Department of Health Policy and Management, Department of Emergency Medicine, George Washington University, Washington, DC, United States of America.



Primary care (PC) follow-up for discharged emergency department (ED) patients provides patients with further medical attention. We conducted a pilot randomized controlled trial to determine whether using a freely-available physician appointment-booking website results in higher self-reported PC follow-up.


We randomized discharged patients whom treating physicians determined PC follow-up was important and who possessed health insurance but had no PC provider to one of three groups: (1) a PC appointment booked through the booking website prior to ED discharge; (2) written information on how to use the booking website; or (3) usual care (i.e. standard follow-up instructions). We phoned subjects two weeks after the ED visit to determine whether they had completed a PC follow-up visit. We also asked subjects about their satisfaction with obtaining a PC appointment, satisfaction with the ED visit, symptom resolution and subsequent ED visits. The self-reported PCP follow-up rate was compared among the study groups by estimating the risk difference (RD) and 95% CI between usual care and each intervention group.


272 subjects were enrolled and randomized and 68% completed the two-week telephone follow-up interview. The self-reported PCP follow-up rate was higher (52%) among subjects whose appointment was booked on the website before ED discharge (RD = 16%; 95% CI -1%, 34%) and lower (25%) for subjects who received booking website information (RD = 13%; 95% CI -32%, 7%) compared to subjects (36%) in the usual care group. A higher percentage of subjects in the booking group were more likely to report being extremely or very satisfied with obtaining a PC appointment (78%) compared to those who received booking website information (54%) or usual care (40%).


Among ED patients that providers judged PC follow-up is important, using a booking website to schedule an appointment before ED discharge resulted in a higher but not statistically significant self-reported PC follow-up rate. This intervention warrants further investigation in a study with a larger sample size and objective follow-up visit data.


Emergency department; Primary care


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