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US Emergency Department Visits

Emergency department visits in the US are currently measured utilizing two techniques: direct survey of hospitals, and chart sampling with extrapolation. The four organizations listed here have the longest running estimates of US emergency department visits. 

  1. National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS), performed by the CDC.
  2. Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), overseen by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
  3. American Hospital Association annual hospital survey.
  4. National Emergency Department Inventories (NEDI) conducted by EMNet. 

The latest published data available is complete through 2016.  All sources show a continuing rise in emergency department visits in the United States. It is clear that the healthcare needs of our population continue to rely on the critical resources provided by our nation’s emergency departments. In 2016, the NHAMCS data shows a 6.4% increase in visits. This represents an increase of 24.6% over the past 10 years.

Although there is some discrepancy between the four sources, the overall trend is consistent. However, NHAMCS and AHA data do not take into account visits to free-standing emergency departments. This becomes significant when contrasting the increasing trend of emergency department visits with the decreasing trend in number of hospitals. Although there are more visits per hospital, there are also a significant number of free-standing (non-hospital based) emergency department visits. The chart below highlights that contrast, sowing a growing number of emergency departments (NEDI) with a decreasing number of them being hospital based.

The map below summarizes data published by the National Emergeny Department Inventory (NEDI). Hovering over a state in the map below provides several pieces of information. 

  1. Total visits to emergency departments in the state in 2016.
  2. Total number of emergency departments operating in the state in 2016.
  3. A breakdown of the emergency departments by annual volume. 

Texas continues to have the country’s largest number of emergency departments, with more than half of them in the <10k visit category. Free-standing emergency departments make up the vast majority of Texas EDs in this category. 

Interested in more specific information about how your emergency department performance compares to others nationally or regionally? Reach out to us for a free consultation, here.

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