Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(7):1163
Ensuring access to emergency care in rural areas remains a challenge. High costs and low patient volumes make 100 percent staffing of rural emergency departments (EDs) by emergency medicine residency-trained physicians (EPs) unlikely. As rurality increases, so does the dependence on family physicians to provide quality emergent care.
Emergency medical services should be organized to meet the needs of the patient population in the most effective manner. Today, with increased specialization in medicine, many different clinicians provide ED care.1,2 The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that 54 percent of its members provide some form of ED care, and 2.5 percent work full-time in ED care.3
Nationwide analysis from the Area Resource File shows the consistent presence of family physicians, and the decline in EPs, per capita with increasing rurality (see accompanying table).5,6 The percentage of counties with an ED but no EPs increases with rurality. Available data do not account for care provided by physicians across counties.
|RUCC*||Number of counties||Number per 10,000 persons of:||Percentage of counties with an ED but no EPs|
To succeed, ACEP’s position requiring emergency medicine board certification for credentialing in EDs would require an increase in the number of EPs, a means of inducing their practice in rural areas, and the subsidizing of rural EDs to pay for them. More viable options include designing a system of care that meets emergency care needs with a range of clinicians including family physicians, and supporting combined professional efforts to ensure access to high-quality emergent care for rural populations.