In OC, nearly half of ER visits ‘avoidable’

February 25, 2010

Nearly half of all emergency room visits made in Orange County are avoidable, for conditions that could be treated in a doctor’s office instead, according to a new study by the county’s Health Care Agency.

The study also found that 70 percent of ER visits made for infants were avoidable. Patients with private insurance and the elderly had the lowest rates of unnecessary visits to the emergency room.

“The cost of emergency department care is much higher than a primary care setting and overcrowding has a significant impact on service delivery,” David Riley, Director of the Health Care Agency, said in a written statement issued with the report. “This underscores the importance of expanding alternative sources of care such as urgent care centers, clinics, preventive services, and dial-a-nurse hotlines to meet this need.”

The agency examined emergency room visits at the county’s 26 hospital emergency departments in 2007. The study found that about 45 percent all emergency department visits in the County, more than 336,000 for the year, could have been avoided or otherwise treated in a primary care setting.

Avoidable visits included conditions such as asthma attacks or ear infections that required urgent care, but could have been avoided with “timely and effective primary care.”

To see the full report, go here

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