Outpatient U.S. Medical Care Exceeds 1 Billion Visits

New reports from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention examine ambulatory health care in America. They report on the more than 1 billion visits a year Americans make to doctors’ offices, emergency rooms and hospital outpatient departments.

The latest in an annual series, these reports provide a comprehensive analysis of visits to ambulatory health care settings in 2004.

  • Ambulatory care visits have increased at three times the rate of population growth over the past decade.
  • Infants under the 1 year of age had the highest rate of visits to primary care offices and hospital outpatient and emergency departments, compared to other age groups.
  • Hospital settings as opposed to physician offices were used morefrequently for ambulatory care by Medicaid recipients and by patients with self-pay, no charge, or charity indicated as the expected source of payment.
  • The amount of time a patient waits before seeing a physician in the emergency department increased from 38 minutes in 1997 to 47 minutes in 2004. There was no change in the average time—about 16 minutes—a patient spends face-to-face with a doctor in an office visit.
  • For the first time, seasonal estimates are available and show that overall, office visits decreased from spring through the summer.

Additional information is available online at the CDC’s Web site: www.cdc.gov.

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