Patient preference for emergency care: Can and should it be changed?

Derek Delia, Joel C. Cantor, Susan Brownlee, Jose Nova, Dorothy Gaboda

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The authors use a statewide survey to examine care seeking behavior in the emergency department (ED). Most patients who go to the ED (69.3%) do so mainly for conditions they believe are urgent. Time before seeking ED care is highly variable from immediately (28.7%) to more than 1 week (7.0%) and is only weakly related to the perceived urgency of medical condition. Healthier individuals initiate ED care more rapidly than sicker patients. In retrospect, 80.4% of patients would go to the same ED if they had the same medical episode but this percentage falls substantially with increased ED waiting time. Subject to some limitations uncovered in model specification tests, the study highlights several correlates of ED care seeking behavior that may be useful for designing strategies to divert some patients away from the ED. It also raises larger questions, however, about whether diversion is optimal from patient and health system perspectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-293
Number of pages17
JournalMedical Care Research and Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy


  • delivery reform
  • emergency care
  • emergency department
  • health care organization
  • patient preferences

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