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OBJECTIVE. We examined the association of patterns of ambulatory care for AIDS patients with any use of the emergency room (ER) and the monthly rate of ER visits in the six months after AIDS diagnosis. DATA SOURCES/STUDY SETTING. The study population was obtained from the New York State Medicaid HIV/AIDS Research Data Base and includes patients diagnosed with AIDS from 1983 to 1990. DATA COLLECTION/EXTRACTION METHODS. To examine patterns of care and ER use not leading to hospitalization, we studied patients who survived at least six months after their first AIDS-defining diagnosis. The data base included person level information on visits to different provider sites and patient demographic and clinical characteristics. STUDY DESIGN. We defined the dominant provider as the site delivering the majority of ambulatory care for patients with a minimum of four ambulatory visits in the six months after AIDS diagnosis. Dominant providers were classified by specialty and setting: generalist physician; general medicine clinic; AIDS specialty clinic; and other specialty clinic or physician (e.g., cardiology). Patients without a dominant provider were grouped into those with four or more visits and those with fewer than four visits. Regression analysis was used to estimate relationships between ER use and patterns of ambulatory care and patient demographic and severity of illness characteristics. PRINCIPAL RESULTS. The study population included 9,155 AIDS patients aged 13 to 60 years at diagnosis, continuously Medicaid-enrolled, and surviving at least six months after AIDS diagnosis. Among those with four or more visits (56 percent), over 70 percent had a dominant provider. Overall, 39 percent of the study population visited the ER while, in the group with four or more visits, 53 percent of those without a dominant provider had an ER visit. Patients without a dominant provider were estimated to have 32 percent higher odds of ER use than patients with a dominant provider. Among patients with a dominant provider, patients with a generalist or primary care clinic dominant site of care were estimated respectively to have 18 percent and 23 percent lower odds than patients with an AIDS specialty clinic as the dominant site of care. Drug users had higher odds of ER use, as did women. CONCLUSIONS. In this Medicaid AIDS population, a dominant provider delivering the majority of a patient's care was associated with less use of the ER by the patient. Among patients with a dominant provider, ER use was lowest for those with a primary care provider. Further examination of the type and availability of ambulatory services in AIDS specialty clinics and primary care settings, as well as more detailed information on patient characteristics, may reveal reasons for these patterns of ER use.