As further evidence that expanded physician office hours lower patients' overall health costs, a recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics concluded that "extended office hours may be the most effective practice change to reduce emergency department use."
According to the University of Michigan research team, their research is the first large study to look at the relationship between physicians' office hours and ED use in children.
What they found was that the impact of increased physician access could potentially be more substantial in children than adults, as a national survey revealed that children had half as many ED visits if their primary care doctor offered evening hours five or more days a week, HealthDay reported. A troubling finding, however, is that up to 56 percent of parents surveyed did not know whether their child's pediatrician was accessible by email or offered visits during nights and weekends.
"These findings are an important step in understanding where primary-care practices and medical home programs can be most effective in making changes to enhance access," study lead author Dr. Joe Zickafoose, a University of Michigan pediatrician, noted in a statement.
"We hope that our study encourages parents and primary-care practices to communicate more about when the office is open and when they can call for advice," Zickafoose said.