BACKGROUND: Emergency departments (EDs) continue to struggle with overcrowding, increasing wait times, and a surge in patients with non-urgent conditions. Patients frequently choose the ED for non-emergent medical issues or injuries that could readily be handled in a primary care setting. We analyzed encounters in the ED at the Brooke Army Medical Center-the largest hospital in the Department of Defense-to determine the percentage of visits that could potentially be managed in a lower cost, appointment-based setting. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted a retrospective chart review of patients within our electronic medical record system from September 2019 to August 2020, which represented equidistance from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a shift in ED used based on previously published data. Our study also compared the number of ED visits pre-covid vs. post-covid. We defined visits to be primary care eligible if they were discharged home and received no computed tomography imaging, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, intravenous medications, or intramuscular-controlled substances. RESULTS: During the 12 month period, we queried data on 75,205 patient charts. We categorized 56.7% (n = 42,647) of visits as primary care eligible within our chart review. Most primary-care-eligible visits were ESI level 4 (59.2%). The largest proportion of primary-care-eligible patients (28.3%) was seen in our fast-track area followed by our pediatric pod (21.9%). The total number of ED visits decreased from 7,477 pre-covid to 5,057 post-covid visits. However, the proportion of patient visits that qualified as primary care eligible was generally consistent. CONCLUSIONS: Over half of all ED visits in our dataset could be primary care eligible. Our findings suggest that our patient population may benefit from other on-demand and appointment-based healthcare delivery to decompress the ED.
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