According to a recently released National Center for Health Statistics report, "Americans made more than 1.1 billion visits a year to doctors' offices and hospital emergency and outpatient departments in 2004, up by 31% in the last 10 years." The study attributes the increase, in part, to an 11% population growth and a 19% per capita utilization increase.
Other interesting tidbits from the study include:
- "One-half of the 1.1 billion visits (48.1 percent) were to primary care doctors in office-based practices. The rest were to medical specialists (18.3 percent) and surgical specialists (16.0 percent) in office-based practices and emergency departments (10.0 percent) and outpatient departments (7.7 percent) in nonfederal general and short-stay hospitals.
- "Essential hypertension was the primary diagnosis recorded most frequently (42.1 million) at ambulatory care visits. Significant increases over the last 10 years were found for most of the leading primary diagnoses at ambulatory care visits including diabetes (up by 117%) and spinal disorders (up by 94%).
- "There was no change in the average time a patient spent face-to-face with a physician in office settings. The amount of time a patient waited before seeing a physician in the emergency department increased from 38.0 minutes in 1997 (first year collected) to 47 minutes in 2004."