Officials: ER visits up to highest recorded level
Visits climbed to a record high of 141.4 million in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control
By EMS1 Staff
WASHINGTON — New data showed that emergency visits soared to 141.4 million patients in 2014, according to the CDC.
The American College of Emergency Physicians reported that the number of visits is equivalent to the entire U.S. population visiting the ER every two and a half years. The new data confirms that visits have greatly increased since the Affordable Care Act was implemented.
In 2013, there were 130.4 million visits, according to the CDC. The data also revealed that the severity and complexity of visits was likely a factor of the rise of retail clinics, urgent care centers and other facilities for non-urgent issues.
"Clearly, emergency departments are providing a valuable service that most patients can't get anywhere else," ACEP president Becky Parker said. "What other doctor will see you at 2 am – no appointment necessary? Nearly two-thirds of visits occurred after business hours. The highest users of emergency care include patients over age 75, infants and nursing home residents."
Dr. Parker added that ER visits are likely to exceed 150 million annually in the 2016 data.
Top reasons for emergency visits include chest pain, shortness of breath and stomach pain. Chronic disease was also a factor in a lot of emergency visits.
"A growing number of patients also are coming to emergency departments with mental health problems and opiate overdoses," Dr. Parker said. "While overall admission rates to the hospital have fallen, it's a different story for mental health patients, with more than a million of them needing admission to the hospital in 2014."
Although visits have increased, waiting times have continued to improve, with 32 percent of patients waiting less than 15 minutes, and 68 percent being seen in less than an hour.