Americans Made More Than One Billion Hospital and Doctor Visits in 2006

Patients in the United States made an estimated 1.1 billion visits to physician offices and hospital outpatient and emergency departments in 2006, an average of four visits per person per year, according to new health care statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The data come from various components of CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics National Health Care Survey and are featured in a series of new National Health Statistics Reports. Some findings include:

  • The number of visits to physician offices and hospital outpatient and emergency departments increased by 26% from 1996 to 2006, faster than the growth of the U.S. population, which increase by 11%. The increase in visits can be linked to both the aging of the population, as older people have higher visit rates than younger people in general.
  • In 2006, 7 of 10 visits had at least one medication provided, prescribed, or continued, for a total of 2.6 billion medications overall. Analgesics were the most common, accounting for 13.6% of all drugs prescribed, and were most often used during primary care and emergency department visits.
  • The emergency department served as the route of admission to hospital inpatient services for roughly 50% of non-obstetric hospital patients in 2006, up from 36% in 1996.
  • Patients with Medicaid use the emergency department more frequently than patients with private insurance – 82 per 100 persons for Medicaid vs. 21 per 100 for private insurance.
  • Most emergency department visits occurred after business hours (defined as 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays), when 63% of adults and 73% of children younger than age 15 arrived.
  • The overall average waiting time to see a physician in the emergency department was nearly 56 minutes.
  • During the past 36 years, the percent of hospital inpatients who were 65 years of age and older grew from 20% in 1970 to 38% in 2006. Over the same time period, the percent of inpatients who were 75 years of age and older increased from 9% to over 24%.

The rate of knee replacement for those aged 65 years old and older increased 46% between 2000 and 2006, and the rate doubled among those aged 45-64 years during the same time period.

The rate of coronary atherosclerosis more than doubled during the 1990s but since 2002 declined for all age groups, particularly for those 65 years and older.

Between 1996 and 2006, the percentage of visits to hospital outpatient departments made by adults 18 years and over with chronic diabetes increased by 43%t and visits with chronic high blood pressure increased by 51%.

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