Emergency Department Visits Reach Record Number in 2003, CDC Says
The number of hospital emergency department visits reached a record high of almost 114 million in 2003, and the number of EDs decreased by 14% between 1993 and 2003, according to a CDC report released on Thursday, CQ HealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 5/26). For the report, which examined hospital, patient and visit characteristics for EDs and trends in ED use between 1993 and 2003, researchers analyzed data from the 2003 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey Emergency Department Summary conducted by National Center for Health Statistics (CDC release, 5/26).
The report attributed the increase in ED visits to more use by adults, many of whom were ages 65 and older. In addition, the report also found that Medicaid beneficiaries were four times as likely to visit EDs as those with private health insurance. Report lead author Linda McCaig of NCHS said that EDs serve as a "safety net and often the place of first resort for health care for America's poor and uninsured." The report also found that the average wait time for examination by an ED physician was about 46.5 minutes in 2003, the same time as in 2000, although the number of ED visits increased over that time. "EDs have implemented a number of efficiencies, including 'fast-track' units, which may have kept the wait time constant," the report said. According to the report, "adverse effects of medical treatment," injuries and poisonings accounted for more than 35% of ED visits, and EDs performed X-rays, CT scans or other medical imaging services in 43% of visits (CQ HealthBeat, 5/26). The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.
ABCNews' "World News Tonight" on Thursday reported on the report. The segment includes comments from Dr. Arthur Kellerman of Emory University Medical School and Dr. Corey Slovis of Vanderbilt Medical Center (McKenzie, "World News Tonight," ABCNews, 5/26).