Physician staffing of small rural hospital emergency departments: rapid change and escalating cost

  • Abstract

    We surveyed all 37 rural Washington state hospitals with fewer than 100 beds to determine how rural emergency departments are staffed by physicians and to estimate rural hospital payments for emergency department physician services. Only five hospital emergency departments (14%) were still covered by the traditional rotation of local practitioners and billed on a fee-for-service basis. Ten hospitals (27%) paid local private practitioners to provide emergency department coverage. Twelve other hospitals (32%) hired visiting emergency department physicians to cover only weekends or evenings. The remaining 10 rural emergency departments (27%) were staffed entirely by external contract physicians. Thus, 86 percent of rural hospitals contracted for emergency department coverage, and 59 percent obtained some or all of this service from nonlocal physicians. Most of the 32 hospitals with some form of contracted services have changed to this emergency department coverage in the last few years. The cost of these services is high, particularly for the smallest hospitals that have fewer than eight emergency department visits per day and pay physician wages of nearly $100 per patient visit. Emergency staffing responsibility has shifted from local practitioners to the hospital administrators because of rural physician scarcity and a desire to improve quality and convenience. The cost of these changes may further undermine the economic viability of the smaller rural hospitals.

  • Authors:

    Williamson HA, Rosenblatt RA, Hart LG

  • Journal/Publisher:

    J Rural Health

  • Edition:

    Jun 1992. 8(3):171-177

  • Link to Article

    Access the article here: J Rural Health

  • Citation:

    Williamson HA, Rosenblatt RA, Hart LG. Physician Staffing Of Small Rural Hospital Emergency Departments: Rapid Change And Escalating Cost. J Rural Health. Jun 1992 8(3):171-177

  • Related Studies:

    Physician Staffing of Small Rural Hospital Emergency Departments