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How many emergency department visits result in a transfer to another hospital?

About 1.5% of emergency visits result in a transfer to another hospital. That’s one of the findings from an analysis of emergency department transfers in 2009 based on the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project data.

Nearly 16% of emergency patients were admitted from the ED to the same hospital, while 83% were treated and released from the ED.

Because of the Emergency Medicine Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), most hospitals are required to conduct a medical screening and stabilize any patient coming to its emergency department.  When a hospital lacks the ability or capacity to further treat a particular condition, the patient may be transferred to another hospital.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • Elderly patients were almost twice as likely to be transferred than the overall average.
  • Transfer rates were greater in rural areas — 3%.
  • Non-teaching, non-trauma, and public hospitals were more likely to transfer ED patients.

Source: Kindermann D. Emergency department transfers to acute care care facilities. HCUP Statistical Report [Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality] #155, May 2013. http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb155.pdf

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

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