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Government Report: One in Five Americans Visited Emergency Room at Least Once in Past Year

Annual health assessment includes special section on emergency care (May 30)

In 2011, 20% of U.S. adults reported at least one emergency room (ER) visit in the past year, and 7% reported two or more visits, according to Health, United States, 2012, the government’s annual report on American’s health. The latest report includes a compilation of health data from state and federal health agencies and the private sector.

Highlights of this year’s special section on emergency care include:

  • During 2001 through 2011, both children under the age of 18 years and adults aged 18 to 64 years with Medicaid coverage were more likely than uninsured Americans and those with private insurance coverage to have at least one ER visit in the past year.
  • In 2009–2010, cold symptoms were the most common reason for ER visits by children (27%), and injuries were the most common reason for visits by adults (14%).
  • Between 2000 and 2010, 35% of ER visits included an x-ray, while the use of advanced imaging scans (CT or MRI) increased from 5% to 17% of visits.
  • In 2009–2010, 81% of ER visits were discharged for follow-up care as needed; 16% ended with the patient being admitted to the hospital; 2% ended with the patient leaving without completing the visit; and less than 1% ended in the patient’s death.
  • In 2009–2010, 59% of ER visits (excluding hospital admissions) included at least one drug prescribed at discharge.
  • During 2001–2011, the percentage of persons with at least one ER visit in the past year was stable at 20% to 22%, and the percentage of persons reporting two or more visits was stable at 7% to 8%.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • Between 2010 and 2011, the percentage of adults aged 19 to 25 years who were uninsured decreased from 34% to 28%.
  • Expenditures for hospital care accounted for 31% of all national health care expenditures in 2010. Physician and clinical services accounted for 20% of the total, followed by prescription drugs (10%), and nursing care facilities and continuing care retirement communities (6%).
  • In 2011, 48% of adults aged 18 years and older did not meet the 2008 federal physical activity guidelines.

Sources: CDC; May 30, 2013; and Health, United States, 2012; May 2013.

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