Monday, July 10, 2006

Emergency Department Visits Remain at Record High Levels

From ACEP:

WASHINGTON, DC- Visits to the nation's emergency departments remain at record high levels with an average of more than 300,000 visits made to U.S. emergency departments every day in 2004, according to the latest statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Frederick Blum, President of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), said emergency rooms continue to be a safety net for the entire nation's health care system.

According to the CDC, visits decreased to 110.2 million annually, down from 113.9 million in 2003, although the drop was not considered statistically significant. Visits to emergency departments have increased 18 percent between 1994 and 2004, rising from 93.4 million to 110.2 million visits annually. In that same time period, the number of U.S. emergency departments decreased by 12.4 percent.

"Many factors are at work creating a gridlock situation in emergency departments around the country, including fewer emergency departments, a shortage of on-call specialists, many uninsured people who have nowhere else to go for medical care, and a shortage of hospital beds to transfer our patients to once they've been admitted through the emergency department," said Dr. Blum. "New reports from the Institute of Medicine conclude the emergency medical system itself is in crisis and time is running out to fix it."

The statistics show one-fifth of the U.S. adult population visited an emergency room at least once in the previous 12 months. Infants, under one year of age, accounted for 3.9 million of the nation's emergency rooms visits in 2004. The highest number of emergency room visits was reported by the CDC in 2003, with nearly 114 million visits recorded that year.


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