Primary care practices can reduce pressure on local emergency departments by offering integrated after-hours health care services that allow for the sharing of electronic health records, according to a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, Modern Physician reports.
Researchers based the study on interviews with 44 primary care physicians, practice managers, nurses and health plan representatives from 28 organizations (Daly, Modern Physician, 6/5).
Researchers found that the following features contributed to successful after-hours health care models:
- Shared EHRs; and
- Systematic notification procedures between after-hours programs and daytime primary care providers.
According to the study, one interviewee said that the "most critical piece of setting up after-hours care is information exchange in real time" (Hitt, Medscape, 6/6).
Although smaller practices have fewer resources with which to provide after-hours care, researchers said they could play a key role in curbing unnecessary ED use because more than 70% of office visits are to practices with five or fewer primary care physicians.
Researchers also noted that planning grants from payers or foundations could help small practices develop after-hours health care programs (Modern Physician, 6/5).