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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Resource Utilization in Non-Academic Emergency Departments with Advanced Practice Providers


Introduction: Advanced practice providers (APP), including physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners, have been increasingly incorporated into emergency department (ED) staffing over the past decade. There is scant literature examining resource utilization and the cost benefit of having APPs in the ED. The objectives of this study were to compare resource utilization in EDs that use APPs in their staffing model with those that do not and to estimate costs associated with the utilized resources.

Methods: In this five-year retrospective secondary data analysis of the Emergency Department Benchmarking Alliance (EDBA), we compared resource utilization rates in EDs with and without APPs in non-academic EDs. Primary outcomes were hospital admission and use of computed tomography (CT), radiography, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Costs were estimated using the 2014 physician fee schedule and inpatient payments from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. We measured outcomes as rates per 100 visits. Data were analyzed using a mixed linear model with repeated measures, adjusted for annual volume, patient acuity, and attending hours. We used the adjusted net difference to project utilization costs between the two groups per 1000 visits.

Results: Of the 1054 EDs included in this study, 79% employed APPs. Relative to EDs without APPs, EDs staffing APPs had higher resource utilization rates (use per 100 visits): 3.0 more admissions (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.0–4.1), 1.7 more CTs (95% CI, 0.2–3.1), 4.5 more radiographs (95% CI, 2.2–6.9), and 1.0 more ultrasound (95% CI, 0.3–1.7) but comparable MRI use 0.1 (95% CI, -0.2–0.3). Projected costs of these differences varied among the resource utilized. Compared to EDs without APPs, EDs with APPs were estimated to have 30.4 more admissions per 1000 visits, which could accrue $414,717 in utilization costs.

Conclusion: EDs staffing APPs were associated with modest increases in resource utilization as measured by admissions and imaging studies.


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