Doctor shortage may result in crowded ERs

Aug. 9, 2011 at 11:05 PM   |   Comments

AURORA, Colo., Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Despite increased coverage under the Affordable Care Act, overcrowding may persist in U.S. emergency rooms due to a shortage of doctors, researchers say.

A study by the University of Colorado School of Medicine, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed expanded health insurance coverage via the Affordable Care Act, might not mean better access to medical care.

Senior author Dr. Adit Ginde of the Colorado University School of Medicine and University of Colorado Hospital and co-authors, Paul Cheung and Dr. Jennifer Wiler, analyzed National Health Interview Survey data of approximately 317,000 U.S. adults from 1999 to 2009.

The researchers found people with one or more barriers to primary care are more likely to visit the emergency department.

In addition, barriers to primary care have doubled during the past decade, including limited physician office hours, wait times for appointments, difficulty in getting in touch with a primary care physician's office to make an appointment and transportation issues, the study said.

"In addition to expanding health insurance coverage, policy makers may need to address the shortage and availability of primary care physicians," Ginde said in a statement. "Without adequate primary care access, many people will continue to require emergency services and emergency departments will only continue to get busier and more crowded."

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