Family physicians play key role in urban ERs

While ER patients in rural areas are likely to receive treatment from family physicians, a new study found family physicians often treat ER patients in urban areas, according to AAFP.

The study from the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care was recently published in American Family Physician.

The paper's authors utilized the AMA Physician Masterfile to determine the number of physicians working in rural and urban ERs. To find how many family physicians were contributing to ERs, they studied Medicare claims data from 2012. Approximately 4,000 physicians who identified themselves as ER physicians completed their last residency in family medicine.

The authors found family physicians submitted almost 12 percent of the 15 million total ER claims in 2012. In addition, filings by family physicians in urban ERs represented 67 percent of the claims related to ER care submitted by family physicians for the year.

After closely examining the CPT codes filed on Medicare forms, the authors discovered the family physicians in ERs are handling more than simple cases — they're treating strokes, heart attacks and fractures.

The overall findings of the study surprised the authors. "We know that family physicians in outlying rural settings are contributing to ERs, but nobody ever looked at their contribution in urban and suburban settings," said co-author Gerald Banks, MD.

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