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Few Non-Urgent Patients in ERs: Study

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Two-thirds of emergency room visits in 2007 occurred during non-business hours and the percentage of non-urgent emergency patients was less than eight percent, says a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings challenge the idea that emergency rooms are crowded with non-urgent patients, says the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

"The percentage of non-urgent patients dropped to only 7.9 percent in 2007 [from 12.1 percent in 2006]," ACEP President Dr. Angela Gardner, said in a college news release. "The report also makes the excellent point that non-urgent does not imply unnecessary. As we have said repeatedly, our patients are in the ER because thats where they need to be."

In 2007, there were about 222 visits to U.S. emergency departments every minute. The number of visits increased by 23 percent between 1997 and 2007. Preliminary data for 2008 suggest emergency visits will reach a record high of more than 123 million.

The highest rate of emergency room visits was among babies under 12 months old (88.5 visits per 100 infants), followed by adults age 75 and older (62 visits per 100 people).


Last Updated: Aug. 12, 2010

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