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As U.S. Population Ages, ER Visits Will Lengthen

And hospitalizations stemming from these visits will rise, study predicts

MONDAY, July 8, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- While the number of visits to emergency rooms will not rise due to United States' aging population, ER visits will last longer and there will be an increase in hospitalizations between now and 2050, according to a new study.

"With U.S. emergency care characterized as 'at the breaking point,' we wanted to study how the aging of the U.S. population would affect the demand for emergency department services and hospitalizations in the coming decades," lead author Dr. Daniel Pallin, director of research in the department of emergency medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said in a hospital news release.

The researchers were surprised to find their analysis showed that the number of ER visits would increase at the same rate -- not higher -- as the population increased. However, the length of time that patients spend in ERs will rise 10 percent faster than population growth, and hospital admissions from the ER will rise 23 percent faster.

"Our analysis predicts that the total amount of time spent by patients in [emergency departments] across the country will increase 1.1 times faster than population growth as the population ages," Pallin said. "This means that the United States will need 10 percent more ED resources per capita than available today."

He added that with ER visits and the number of hospitalizations expected to increase, the process of moving patients from the ER into the hospital needs to be as efficient as possible.

The study appears in the July issue of the journal Health Affairs.

More information

The American College of Emergency Physicians explains when you should go to the emergency department.

SOURCE: Brigham and Women's Hospital, news release, July 8, 2013
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