One in Five Americans Report at Least One ER Visit Last Year, CDC Says

Jun 03, 2013, 13:52 ET from American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- One in five Americans reported visiting an emergency department at least once in the past year, according to new report on America's health from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC).  The findings show America's increasing reliance on emergency care, according to Dr. Andy Sama, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).  The vast majority of patients going to the ER have the symptoms of a medical emergency, and it's not possible to diagnose their conditions until medical exams and tests are complete.   

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There were more than 130 million emergency visits in 2010, and the vast majority of visits were for serious medical symptoms.  Patients also are not able to evaluate the seriousness of their symptoms, according to the CDC, and the patient's reason for the visit did not always match the physician's diagnosis.  The highest usages were among children ages 6 and younger and adults ages 75 and older.    

"Emergency departments are the only part of the health care system that are always open — all day, all night, all year," said Dr. Sama.  "We know from a recent RAND report that even primary care physicians are increasingly dependent on ERs to see their patients after hours, perform complex diagnostic workups and facilitate admissions of acutely ill patients." 

The report says emergency care represents about 4 percent of the nation's health care spending.

"Even though emergency care is a small percentage of health care spending, emergency physicians are key decisionmakers in more than half of hospital admissions," said Dr. Sama.  "Hospital inpatient care is a key driver of health care costs, accounting for 31 percent of the nation's health care expenses.  Policymakers and hospital administrators should be more mindful of the role that emergency physicians play in evaluating, managing and preventing hospital admissions.  Clearly, emergency departments must be fully integrated in health care delivery systems for both inpatient and outpatient care."

Other CDC findings include:

  • Those with Medicaid coverage were more likely than uninsured Americans and those with private insurance to have at least one emergency visit in the last year.
  • Injuries were the most common reason for emergency visits by adults.
  • 59 percent of emergency visits included at least one prescription when the patient was discharged.
  • Between 2000-2010, 35 percent of emergency visits included an x-ray.  CT Scans or MRIs increased from 5 percent to 17 percent of visits.

ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies. 


SOURCE American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)