Over 1 Billion U.S. Doctor, Hospital Visits Logged in 2006

CDC attributes increase to aging of the U.S. population
By Andrea Mongler
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 7 (HealthDay News) -- In 2006, patients made an estimated 1.1 billion visits to physician offices and hospital emergency and outpatient departments in the United States, which was an average of four visits per person, according to health care statistics released Aug. 6 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The figure is included in a series of new National Health Statistics Reports. According to the reports, the number of visits to hospital emergency and outpatient departments and physician offices grew by 26 percent from 1996 to 2006, though the U.S. population increased by only 11 percent. The increase in visits can be linked to the aging of the population, according to the CDC.

The agency also found that at least one medication was prescribed during seven out of every 10 visits in 2006, and analgesics were the most commonly prescribed. In addition, patients with Medicaid use the emergency department more often than patients with private insurance (82 per 100 people for Medicaid versus 21 per 100 for private insurance), and most emergency department visits are after business hours.

"For persons living in areas where the poverty level was below 20 percent, 81.7 percent of visits were to physician offices," write Susan M. Schappert and Elizabeth A. Rechtsteiner, of the CDC in Atlanta, authors of one of the National Health Statistics Reports. "Conversely, the proportion of visits to hospital settings rose steadily with increases in poverty level. For patients in the poorest areas (40 percent poverty level or higher), 45.8 percent of the visits were to hospital settings."

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