National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2001 emergency department summary

Linda F McCaig, Catharine W Burt
Advance Data 2003 June 4, (335): 1-29

OBJECTIVES: This report describes ambulatory care visits to hospital emergency departments (EDs) in the United States. Statistics are presented on selected hospital, patient, and visit characteristics. Selected trends in ED utilization from 1992 through 2001 are also presented. The report highlights new items on the continuity of care provided at ED visits, initial vital sign measurements, whether the patient's residence was a nursing home or institution, and duration of the ED visit.

METHODS: The data presented in this report were collected from the 2001 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS). NHAMCS is part of the ambulatory care component of the National Health Care Survey that measures health care utilization across various types of providers. NHAMCS is a national probability sample survey of visits to emergency and outpatient departments of non-Federal, short-stay, and general hospitals in the United States. Sample data are weighted to produce annual national estimates.

RESULTS: During 2001, an estimated 107.5 million visits were made to hospital EDs, about 38.4 visits per 100 persons. From 1992 through 2001, an increasing trend in the ED utilization rate was observed. Between 2 and 3 percent of ED visits were made by patients living in a nursing home or other institution. At approximately 3 percent of visits, the patient had been seen in the ED within the last 72 hours. In 2001, abdominal pain, chest pain, fever, and headache were the leading patient complaints accounting for nearly one-fifth of all visits. Acute upper respiratory infection was the leading illness-related diagnosis at ED visits. There were an estimated 39.4 million injury-related visits during 2001, or 14.1 visits per 100 persons. Diagnostic/screening services and procedures were provided at 85.4 percent and 40.9 percent of visits, respectively. Medications were provided at 74.2 percent of visits, and pain relief drugs accounted for 34.2 percent of the medications mentioned. In 2001, approximately 12 percent of ED visits resulted in hospital admission. On average, patients spent 3.0 hours in the ED.

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