Comparison of Primary Care Provider Office Hours and Pediatric Emergency Department Return Visits

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The aim of this study was to evaluate the influence of primary care office hours of operation on 48-hour return visits (RVs) to a pediatric emergency department (ED). We compared characteristics of patients who return with those who follow up outpatient to determine the feasibility of opening off-hour clinics to decrease the RV rate.


The study was a retrospective chart review of patients presenting to a pediatric ED for a 3-year period. A subset of patients with a hospital-affiliated primary care provider was evaluated to compare those with 48-hour ED RVs with those with office follow-up.


Patients with a hospital-affiliated primary care provider had 30,231 visits, of whom 842 had a 48-hour return (2.79%). A significant number (48.5%) of those who returned had seen their primary care doctor between emergency visits. The percentage of RVs occurring at night (55.7%) was slightly lower than the percentage of all visits occurring off hours (58.1%). Patients with more acute presentation at initial visit (emergency severity index level acuity 2, >20 orders placed) were more likely to follow up with their provider than return to the ED.


The findings from this study show no significant increase in RVs during the evening and overnight hours and many patients with outpatient follow-up before returning to the ED. Opening a clinic at our hospital during nontraditional hours would not likely significantly decrease RV rate.

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