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TRENDS: Outpatient utilization metrics have been going up

Health, United States, 2015 is available.  This is the latest in an annual compendium of statistics published by the federal government which is drawn from both government and nongovernment sources, including the American Hospital Association.  It’s a good place to start to look for historical trend statistics (usually at the national level) on topics related to health status and health care delivery.

Below are data from one table in this massive report.  The data below are authoritative national estimates, based on a sample survey, that were produced by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Why are utilization metrics expressed as “per 100 persons” or “per 1000 persons” interesting?  Because if you a health planner, you can take a geographical service area with a known population size and calculate the approximate number of physician office visits or hospital outpatient visits or emergency department visits that can be expected from that population in a twelve month period.  Doing a demand analysis would then go on to take into account the local competition and other factors, but national utilization estimates like this can be a helpful way to start.

PHYSICIAN OFFICE VISITS per 100 persons per year (age adjusted)

  • 271  1995
  • 304  2000
  • 325  2010
  • [not available] 2011

Note that this is consistently about 3 physician office visits per person per year.  Does that seem intuitively pleasing to you?  Did you go to see doctors three times last year?  Remember, too, that the above includes children and seniors.

HOSPITAL OUTPATIENT DEPARTMENT VISITS per 100 persons per year (age adjusted)

  • 26  1995
  • 31  2000
  • 33  2010
  • 40  2011

HOSPITAL EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT VISITS per 100 persons per year (age adjusted)

  • 37  1995
  • 40  2000
  • 43  2010
  • 45  2011

Source: Table 82, Visits to physician offices, hospital outpatient departments, and hospital emergency departments, by age, sex, and race: United States, selected years 1995-2011.  In U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2015). Health, United States, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/hus.htm  Posted by AHA Resource Center (312) 422-2050, rc@aha.org

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