Emergency Health Services (EHS) : demand and service delivery models. monograph 3 : patients’ reasons and perceptions

Toloo, Sam, Rego, Joanna, FitzGerald, Gerry, Vallmuur, Kirsten, & Ting, Joseph (2013) Emergency Health Services (EHS) : demand and service delivery models. monograph 3 : patients’ reasons and perceptions. Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, QLD.

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Executive Summary Emergency health is a critical component of Australia’s health system and emergency departments (EDs) are increasingly congested from growing demand and blocked access to inpatient beds. The Emergency Health Services Queensland (EHSQ) study aims to identify the factors driving increased demand for emergency health and to evaluate strategies which may safely reduce the future demand growth.

This monograph addresses the perspectives of users of both ambulance services and EDs. The research reported here aimed to identify the perspectives of users of emergency health services, both ambulance services and public hospital Emergency Departments and to identify the factors that they took into consideration when exercising their choice of location for acute health care. A cross-sectional survey design was used involving a survey of patients or their carers presenting to the EDs of a stratified sample of eight hospitals. A specific purpose questionnaire was developed based on a novel theoretical model which had been derived from analysis of the literature (Monograph 1).

Two survey versions were developed: one for adult patients (self-complete); and one for children (to be completed by parents/guardians). The questionnaires measured perceptions of social support, health status, illness severity, self-efficacy; beliefs and attitudes towards ED and ambulance services; reasons for using these services, and actions taken prior to the service request.

The survey was conducted at a stratified sample of eight hospitals representing major cities (four), inner regional (two) and outer regional and remote (two). Due to practical limitations, data were collected for ambulance and ED users within hospital EDs, while patients were waiting for or under treatment. A sample size quota was determined for each ED based on their 2009/10 presentation volumes. The data collection was conducted by four members of the research team and a group of eight interviewers between March and May 2011 (corresponding to autumn season). Of the total of 1608 patients in all eight emergency departments the interviewers were able to approach 1361 (85%) patients and seek their consent to participate in the study. In total, 911 valid surveys were available for analysis (response rate= 67%).

These studies demonstrate that patients elected to attend hospital EDs in a considered fashion after weighing up alternatives and there is no evidence of deliberate or ill-informed misuse. • Patients attending ED have high levels of social support and self-efficacy that speak to the considered and purposeful nature of the exercise of choice. • About one third of patients have new conditions while two thirds have chronic illnesses • More than half the attendees (53.1%) had consulted a healthcare professional prior to making the decision. • The decision to seek urgent care at an ED was mostly constructed around the patient’s perception of the urgency and severity of their illness, reinforced by a strong perception that the hospital ED was the correct location for them (better specialised staff, better care for my condition, other options not as suitable). • 33% of the respondent held private hospital insurance but nevertheless attended a public hospital ED. Similarly patients exercised considered and rational judgements in their choice to seek help from the ambulance service. • The decision to call for ambulance assistance was based on a strong perception about the severity of the illness (too severe to use other means of transport) and that other options were not considered appropriate. • The decision also appeared influenced by a perception that the ambulance provided appropriate access to the ED which was considered most appropriate for their particular condition (too severe to go elsewhere, all facilities in one spot, better specialised and better care). • In 43.8% of cases a health care professional advised use of the ambulance. • Only a small number of people perceived that ambulance should be freely available regardless of severity or appropriateness.

These findings confirm a growing understanding that the choice of professional emergency health care services is not made lightly but rather made by reasonable people exercising a judgement which is influenced by public awareness of the risks of acute health and which is most often informed by health professionals. It is also made on the basis of a rational weighing up of alternatives and a deliberate and considered choice to seek assistance from a service which the patient perceived was most appropriate to their needs at that time. These findings add weight to dispensing with public perceptions that ED and ambulance congestion is a result of inappropriate choice by patients. The challenge for health services is to better understand the patient’s needs and to design and validate services that meet those needs. The failure of our health system to do so should not be grounds for blaming the patient, claiming inappropriate patient choices.

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ID Code: 65395
Item Type: Report
Refereed: No
Keywords: Health service utilisation, Emergency health services, Emergency departments, Ambulance, Health seeking behaviour, Health beliefs, Patient perceptions, CEDM
ISBN: 9781921897931
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Health Care Administration (111709)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified (111799)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION (160500) > Health Policy (160508)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > COGNITIVE SCIENCE (170200) > Decision Making (170202)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Current > Research Centres > Centre for Emergency & Disaster Management
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 16 Dec 2013 01:45
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2015 01:43

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