Emergency department physicians are frustrated and burned out from treating patients who frequent the ED for their care, according to a Henry Ford Hospital survey of physicians from across the country.
The survey found that 59 percent of physicians acknowledged having less empathy for so-called frequent users than other patients, and 77 percent held bias for frequent users. Physicians defined frequent users in the survey as patients who visit the ED at least 10 times a year.
- 91 percent of physicians say frequent users pose challenges for the ED.
- 71 percent of physicians believe a program to manage frequent users is necessary.
- 82 percent of physicians say they feel some level of burnout.
- Experience did not shield physicians from burnout.
Physicians who responded to the survey comprised seasoned professionals, up-and-coming residents and alumni whose experience ranged from one year to 30 years. They represented every state, except Alaska.
While frequent users long have been linked with provoking negative attitudes in the ED, the Henry Ford findings are believed to be the first time physicians' opinions have been measured.
The findings are being presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine June 1-5 in Boston.
"Our findings should be a wake-up call for hospital administrators to look at ways to manage these types of patients," says Jennifer Peltzer-Jones, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist at Henry Ford's Department of Emergency Medicine who led the survey. In 2004, Henry Ford created created the Community Resources for Emergency Department Overuse (CREDO) in response to increased frequent users in its ED.
"Only 31 percent of the physicians surveyed said they had a program to help manage patients who are frequent users. Hospital administrators have to realize that these patients are invoking burnout and staff want and need additional resources," Dr. Peltzer-Jones says.