Emergency Departments (EDs) were originally established to treat seriously ill and injured individuals requiring urgent care. Today however, EDs also treat many non-urgent patients as well, most of whom could be cared for in a primary care setting. In the United States, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, for example, non-urgent patients often make up the majority of ED visits. Canadian EDs are no exception. The Canadian Institute for Health Information found that on average 57 percent of all visits to Canadian EDs are non-urgent. The purpose of this study is to describe the financial and non-financial impacts related to non-urgent ED visits, and better understand why people use EDs for non-urgent issues. Based on a literature review, analysis of administrative hospital data and ED patient surveys and expert interviews, this study concludes that the key to reducing non-urgent ED visits is within the primary care delivery system.
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