Poll: Adults Consider 24/7 Access to the ER Essential, Prefer Care Led by Physicians in a Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A new public opinion poll from Morning Consult and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) demonstrates that frontline physicians are extremely valued by their communities, but many people have difficulty identifying who leads their care while they are in the emergency department. 

Adults consider 24/7 access to the emergency department as one of the most important services communities can provide. In fact, nine in ten adults say it is an “essential” or “high” priority for people to have 24/7 access to the ER, the highest of any utility or service that communities provide. Many people rely on the emergency department as their primary or sole source of immediate medical care. More than half of adults who sought immediate medical care chose to go to an emergency department because urgent care was unavailable, or they were referred by a medical provider; while another 40 percent went because their injury or ailment appeared too severe for urgent care.

“One common thread across different communities is that emergency care is seen as a trusted and essential service. People recognize the incredible value of accessible, high-quality emergency medicine. Emergency physicians are proud to be able to provide care, whenever and wherever we are needed most,” said Mark Rosenberg, DO, MBA, FACEP, president of ACEP.

Patients overwhelmingly trust a physician to lead their medical care while in the emergency department and more strongly prefer to be treated by a physician if their condition or injury is more severe. According to the poll, nearly 80 percent of adults trust a physician to deliver their medical care in an emergency, compared to a nurse practitioner (9 percent), physician assistant (7 percent) or nurse (5 percent).

Hospitals are increasingly having non-physicians—like physician assistants and nurse practitioners—perform complex medical procedures. But patients are often not clear about the role of each team member or who is leading their care. Individuals use a variety of unreliable or subjective criteria to determine whether they are being treated by a physician. According to the poll, 20 percent of younger adults (ages 18-34) would use the color of a health care provider’s scrubs to determine if they are a physician. However, different facilities have different rules about scrub colors, which makes that an unreliable indicator of a person’s role. One quarter of adults ages 35-44 make assumptions about job roles based on how colleagues interact with each other, which may not account for leadership styles, personality traits or individual biases.  

“The laws that determine who can practice medicine without supervision vary across the country so it is understandable that a patient can get confused about who is in charge of their care,” said Dr. Rosenberg. “Physicians should lead every emergency care team because we are the most highly trained and qualified to make diagnostic and treatment decisions for our patients.”

You can access the poll data here

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is the national medical society representing emergency medicine. Through continuing education, research, public education and advocacy, ACEP advances emergency care on behalf of its 40,000 emergency physician members, and the more than 150 million Americans they treat on an annual basis. For more information, visit www.acep.org and www.emergencyphysicians.org

Contact: Steve Arnoff | sarnoff@acep.org | Twitter @EmergencyDocs

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