Public health analysts trying to compare use of different types of care may need access to better types of provider databases.
Grant Martsolf, a Pittsburgh-based researcher affiliated with the Rand Corp., and colleagues talk about provider location data concerns in a new research paper on the effects of retail health care clinics on people’s use of nearby emergency rooms.
In the paper, which was published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, the researchers looked at the possibility that increased access to clinics in drug stores, discount stores and other retail locations might cut patients’ use of emergency rooms for minor ailments, such as sore throats.
The researchers looked at emergency room use in communities with easy access to retail clinics. The researchers found, to their surprise, that an increase in retail clinic penetration appeared to have little or no effect on emergency room use.
But the researchers noted that they need better sources of data to make sure they understand how the opening and closing of different types of health care provider locations affects use of emergency room care.
The researchers were able to get emergency room data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Protect State Emergency Department Databases, and they were able to get retail walk-in clinic addresses from Merchant Medicine, a research firm. They weren’t able to get the same kind of location information for urgent care clinics outside of retail stores, and they weren’t able to get location information for traditional primary care doctors’ offices.