A recent study in Western Australia has indicated that low-acuity – popularly and misleadingly referred to as ‘GP-type’ patients – are not a major contributor to emergency department overcrowding.
The research was undertaken at three metropolitan hospitals in Perth by Dr Yusuf Nagree, who is presenting at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine in Queenstown, NZ.
“In 2016, the Western Australian Government launched an extensive advertising campaign advising people to see their GP instead of the ED,” says Dr Nagree. “We wanted to find out if the campaign had been successful in reducing ED overcrowding and congestion.”
GP-type patients did show a small decrease, with 8.1% of patients considered GP-type in May-October 2015 compared to 7.2% in 2016.
But the proportion of patients who remained in the ED for less than four hours (NEAT performance) actually worsened, from 74% in May-October 2015 to 63% in May-October 2016. Patients spent almost 20% longer in the ED during the 2016 period.
The work burden on Emergency Departments related to GP-type patients remained virtually unchanged accounting for 4% of ED length of stay in 2015 compared to 3.6% in 2016.
“Although the number of GP-type patients coming into our ED did fall slightly, there wasn’t any improvement in performance or a reduction in overcrowding,” Dr Nagree said, “This is because GP patients only account for a small workload in EDs and reducing their number does not improve overcrowding.”
Dr Nagree said the research was consistent with other studies undertaken on the impact of GP patients on ED overcrowding.