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PROJECTIONS: 10 percent increase in ED capacity needed

Do we have enough emergency department capacity nationally to care for the US population as it ages?  How will demand for ED care affect the need for inpatient beds?  These questions are addressed by this study based on the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, using data for 2009.  The researchers (mostly out of Brigham and Women’s and Mass General) projected that ED visits would increase from 136 million in 2009 to 197 million in 2050.  They were surprised to find that this visit rate projection grew at the same rate that the overall population is projected to grow–they had expected the visit rate to grow faster because of more older patients.  But, they found that the older patients have longer lengths of stay in the ED.  This throughput, or time, factor caused them to conclude that a 10 percent increase in ED capacity will be needed by 2050.  They also took a look at hospital admission through the ED and concluded that the ED as a front door to the hospital will be even more significant in the future.

Source: Pallin, D.J., and others.  Population aging and emergency departments: visits will not increase, lengths-of-stay and hospitalizations will.  Health Affairs;32(7):1306-1312, July 2013.  Click here for access to publisher’s website: http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/32/7/1306.long  Posted by AHA Resource Center (312) 422-2050, rc@aha.org

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