MEDICAL SERVICES: Californians Top Many Usage Categories
"California's biggest metropolitan areas exceed the national mean" for utilization of most medical services -- except hospital care, the Wall Street Journal/California Edition reports. A study by San Diego-based Healthdemographics of 320 cities nationwide -- with 25 in California -- concluded that Californians visit doctors and dentists more, receive more outpatient surgery, stay in nursing homes more and receive home care more often than the average American, but make fewer emergency room visits and average shorter hospital lengths of stay. The exception to the shorter length-of-stay rule was the Vallejo-Fairfield-Napa region, which indexed 117 against a national mean of 100. San Francisco residents "by far use the most medical services in the state," while Visalia-Tulare-Porterville residents use the fewest. Healthdemographics CEO Tim Garton said that "utilization of medical service varies between regions and cities based on wealth of the population, lifestyle preferences and infrastructure."
The average length of stay in a California hospital is 12% lower (an index of 88) than the nationwide average length of stay of 5.32 days. Californians go to the doctor just as much as the rest of Americans, but San Franciscans "top the state" with an index of 140. Californians also exceed the rest of the nation in outpatient surgery, with San Franciscans again at the top with an index of 140. The Stockton-Lodi area has the lowest index of outpatient surgeries, at 76. The Journal reports that in California, home care is a more common choice for seniors than nursing home care -- "in most other states nursing homes are the popular choice." Again, at 140 on the index, San Francisco ranked highest in number of elderly citizens receiving home care, ranking it close to Miami, FL, which has a home care index of 147. According to Healthdemographics, the larger cities' higher ratios "may simply indicate that they have more or better facilities" (Hausman, 3/18).