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Low-acuity emergency department use among patients in different primary care models in Hamilton and Ontario

Ly O, Price D, Saskin R, Howard M. Healthc Manage Forum. 2021; 34(4):234-9. Epub 2021 May 10. DOI:

Jurisdictions such as Hamilton, Ontario, where most primary care practices participate in patient enrolment models with enhanced after-hours access, may demonstrate overall improved health equity outcomes. Non-urgent Emergency Department (ED) use has been suggested as an indicator of primary care access; however, the impact of primary care access on ED use is uncertain and likely varies by patient and contextual factors. This population-based, retrospective study investigated whether or not different primary care models were associated with different rates of non-urgent ED visits in Hamilton, a city with relatively high neighbourhood marginalization, compared to the rest of Ontario from 2014/2015 to 2017/2018. In Ontario, enrolment capitation-based practices had more non-urgent ED visits than non-enrolment fee-for-service practices. In Hamilton, where most of the city's family physicians are in enrolment capitation-based practices, differences between models were minimal. The influence of primary care reforms may differ depending on how they are distributed within regions.

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