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Gaceta Sanitaria

Print version ISSN 0213-9111


PASARIN, M Isabel et al. Reasons for attending emergency departments: People speak out. Gac Sanit [online]. 2006, vol.20, n.2, pp.91-99. ISSN 0213-9111.

Objective: To ascertain why people attend hospital emergency departments (ED) for low complexity health problems. Method: A phenomenological, interactionist, qualitative study was performed. A theoretical sample that selected one urban and one rural area from Catalonia (Spain) was designed. In each setting, persons (n = 36) who had used the ED or a primary care emergency service 1 month before the beginning of the study were chosen. Data were obtained through 8 focus groups. An interpretative content analysis was performed, and emergent categories were constructed through research triangulation. Results: Five categories emerged: symptoms, whether or not self-diagnosis was involved, perception of needs, awareness of the health services available, and the overall context of the person. Symptoms generated feelings of failing health and thus initiated care seeking. Self-diagnosis determined perceived need and the type of care sought. People contrasted their self-perception of need with their own opinion about the health services available. The decision to go to one or other service was made as a result of this contrast, but the individual's family, work, and social situations also played a part. Informants were more familiar with the service provided by the ED than with that provided by primary care. Time consumption also figured heavily in decision making. Conclusions: The presence or absence of self-diagnosis is a determining factor in attendance at EDs. Other factors that influence demand are the level of awareness of the heatlh services available, previous experiences, and the life situation of the individual

Keywords : Emergency department utilization; Inappropriate use; Reasons for utilization; Qualitative research.

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