From the New England Journal of Medicine:
Growing use of U.S. emergency departments (EDs), cited as a key contributor to rising health care costs, has become a leading target of health care reform. ED visit rates increased by more than a third between 1997 and 2007, and EDs are increasingly the safety net for underserved patients, particularly adult Medicaid beneficiaries.1 Although much attention has been paid to increasing ED use, the ED’s changing role in our health care system has been less thoroughly examined. EDs serve as a hub for prehospital emergency medical systems, an acute diagnostic and treatment center, a primary safety net, and a 24/7 portal for rapid inpatient admission. Approximately a quarter of all acute care outpatient visits in the United States occur in EDs, a proportion that has been growing since 2001.2 We examined the proportion of hospital admissions that come through the ED, hypothesizing that use of the ED as the admission portal had increased across conditions.
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