According to this report from the Center for Health Care Quality, ED visits are growing 60% faster than the population growth.  Patients are also staying longer in the ED, leading to increased wait times.

An increased number of diagnostics, including blood work, xrays, and advanced imaging, as well as increased number of procedures are cited as factors leading to the overcrowding.

In fact, the principal cause of increased ED occupancy is an increase in the intensity of cases.  Although hospital inpatient admission rates were about the same, ICU admissions were up 114%.

Older, sicker patients with chronic diseases and more complications are a significant driver of this increased intensity of care.  Other factors cited are a more interventionist practice style and “defensive medicine.”

It is postulated that the Affordable Care Act providing coverage for more individuals will increase urgent care center visits, but ED overcrowding phenomenon is likely already contributing to increased visits for urgent care centers, as the slightly less acutely ill can be effectively managed outside the ED.

Are you seeing increased volumes in your urgent care center?

Image credit: bradengunem / 123RF Stock Photo

 

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