The effect of inadequate access to healthcare services on emergency room visits. A comparison between physical and mental health conditions [2018]

This paper estimates the influence of inadequate access to healthcare services on the rate of Emergency Room (ER) hospital visits in Australia. We take micro-data on different types of healthcare shortfalls from the 2012 Australian Survey of Disability, Aging and Carers, and employ Propensity Score Matching (PSM) techniques to identify their effects on ER visits. We find that shortfalls in access to various medical services increases ER visits for individuals with mental and physical conditions by about the same degree. Conversely, inadequate community care services significantly predict ER visits for individuals with physical conditions, but not for persons with mental conditions. The lack of predictive power for inadequate community care for persons with mental health problems is surprising, as “acopia” is thought to be a significant driver of crises that require emergency treatment. We discuss some of the mechanisms that may underpin this finding and address the policy implications of our results. Lastly a number of robustness checks and diagnostics tests are presented which confirm that our modelling assumptions are not violated and that our results are insensitive to the choice of matching algorithms.

Nerina Vecchio, Debbie Davies, Nicholas Rohde

PLOS ONE, August 23, 2018