A new American College of Emergency Physicians membership poll (PDF)suggests that provisions in the Affordable Care Act aimed at diverting emergency department visits have had little effect. The group says that's not necessarily a bad thing.
"The reliance on emergency care remains stronger than ever," Dr. Michael Gerardi, ACEP president, said in a news release. "It's the only place that's open 24/7, and we never turn anyone away. Rather than trying to put a moat around us to keep people out, it's time to recognize the incredible value of this model of medicine that people need."
The ACEP successfully sent e-mails to 24,427 of its members inviting them to participate in an online poll which 2,098 (9%) did between March 16 and March 23.
Most reported higher ED volumes, with 28% reporting that the volume in their department increased greatly since Jan. 1, 2014; 47% said it increased slightly; 17% said it had remained the same; 5% reported a slight decrease; and 3% said they were not sure.
ACEP members report that urgent-care centers, retail clinics and telephone triage services have had little effect on the volume of patients with less severe illnesses. Forty-three percent of respondents reported that these volumes have stayed the same despite the rise of urgent care, while 49% said the same about retail clinics.
The Dallas-based ACEP cited another report finding that, despite provisions in the ACA to boost Medicaid access to primary care, Medicaid patients faced a median two-week wait to see a doctor. Meanwhile, 56% of survey respondents reported increases in their Medicaid patient volume, 19% said that it stayed the same, 1% said it decreased slightly, while another 24% said they were unsure.