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Why do adults go to the ER instead of other outpatient or office-based care sites?

A study was conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics [NCHS] to better understand why people go to hospital emergency rooms instead of less costly outpatient facilities or office-based sites for care. In 2011 NCHS interviewed adults aged 18-64 who had visited an ER within the previous 12 months but had not been subsequently admitted to the hospital. Top reasons given for the ER visits were:

  1. Lack of access to other providers [80%]
  2. Seriousness of medical problem [66%]
  3. Only hospital could help [55%]
  4. Doctor’s office not open [48%]
  5. No other place to go [46%]
  6. ER was closest provider [46%]
  7. Health care provider said to go [20%]
  8. Arrived by ambulance [9%]

The study report also notes that about 20% of the U.S. adult population under age 65 had visited an ER during the past year, a number consistent with earlier survey findings from 2007 and 2010.

Source: Gindi RM and others. Emergency room use among adults aged 18-64: early release of estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, January-June 2011. National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control, May 20, 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyrelease/emergency_room_use_january-june_2011.pdf

Posted by the AHA Resource Center, (312) 422-2050, rc@aha.org

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