Study: Non-Injury Visits to Calif. Emergency Departments Up
Non-injury visits to California emergency departments have increased by more than 13% in recent years, according to a study published Monday in Health Affairs, the Los Angeles Times' "Science Now" reports (Morin, "Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 4/6).
Details of Study
For the study, researchers reviewed ED discharge data from all non-federal California hospitals that reported data to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development between 2005 and 2011.
During the study period, visits to the ED for non-injuries increased by 13.4%. Meanwhile, the visit rate for injuries declined by 0.7% (Hsia et al., Health Affairs, April 2015).
The researchers wrote, "This trend reflects both changes in the population disease burden and the ED's more central role in health care compared [with] its original charge to treat injured patients and provide charity care."
According to the study, the fastest-growing complex health issues diagnosed in California EDs included:
- Abdominal pain;
- Gastrointestinal disease; and
- Nervous system disorders.
The study also found that:
- Complex medical issue visits outpaced injury visits among patients with Medicaid coverage and private insurance, as well as the uninsured; and
- The rate of complex visits equaled that of injury visits among older patients covered by Medicare.
"This could reflect an increasing incidence of injury among the elderly as a result of a variety of factors, including increasingly active lifestyles or increasing severity of injury, resulting in the need for growing amounts of emergency care," according to the study.
In addition, uninsured individuals, privately insured individuals and Medicare beneficiaries all experienced a significant increase in the rate of mental health issues, according to the study.
The researchers suggested that such a trend could indicate that EDs should provide mental health professionals and services ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 4/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.