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Study: Longer PCP hours = fewer ER visits

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A British study suggests that keeping primary-care practices open for more hours, particularly on nights and weekends, cuts visits to hospital emergency departments for non-life threatening illnesses and injuries, reports Medical Economics.

Researchers at the University of Manchester, in  England, determined that practices that extended their hours beyond the British standard of 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. had a 26.4 percent reduction in patients seeking local emergency department visits for minor problems.

“The difference amounted to 10,933 fewer ER visits in a year. For every three additional primary-care slots booked, one visit to the ER was avoided.” said Medical Economics in summarizing the study.

But are longer hours practical for most primary-care practices? Nitin Damle, M.D.,  president of the American College of Physicians and an internist in Rhode Island, told Medical Economics that they are.

“We have had after-hours and Saturday morning hours for 15 years,” he says. “We find it helpful to patients, and it seems to decrease ER use modestly along with providing continuity of care.”

To read the Medical Economics piece, please hit this link.

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