Rise seen in ER visits, wait times: study

Posted by BestPractices on August 12 2010

By Jessica Zigmond

Modern Healthcare │ Healthcare Business News

Total annual visits to the nation’s emergency departments in a 10-year period increased by about 23% to 116.8 million from 94.9 million, which represents an increase that is nearly double what would be expected from population growth, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

From 1997 to 2007, emergency department visit rates rose to 390.5 per 1,000 persons from 352.8 per 1,000 persons, according to the results, which also showed that visits by people between the ages of 18 and 44 and 45 to 64 accounted for the greatest increases.

In addition, the researchers found that from 1997 to 2007, median (or midpoint) emergency department wait times to see a physician increased to 33 minutes from 22 minutes, and the number of facilities that qualify as safety net emergency departments rose to 2,489 in 2007 up from 1,770 in 2000.

“Our findings suggest that increased enrollments in Medicaid between 1999 and 2007 have had substantial effects on ED volume and crowding, and that at least part of this may reflect limited access to primary-care services for Medicaid enrollees,” the authors said in an advance copy of the report, which was released today. “A deeper examination of the differential access to primary care by insurance type is needed to better understand healthcare utilization patterns by patients with Medicaid, and to develop more effective strategies for reducing pressure on the safety net.”

Speaking Engagements

There are no upcoming speaking engagements.