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Press Release

For Immediate Release: August 06, 2008
Contact: CDC/NCHS Office of Communication
Phone: 301-458-4800

Americans Made Over 1 Billion Hospital and Doctor Visits in 2006

Patients in the United States made an estimated 1.1 billion visits to physician offices and hospital outpatient and emergency departments in 2006, an average of four visits per person per year, according to new health care statistics released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The data come from various components of CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics National Health Care Survey and are featured in a series of new National Health Statistics Reports. Some of the findings include:

  • The number of visits to physician offices and hospital outpatient and emergency departments increased by 26 percent from 1996 to 2006, faster than the growth of the U.S. population, which rose by 11 percent. The rise in visits can be linked to both the aging of the population, as older people have higher visit rates than younger people in general.
  • In 2006, seven out of 10 visits had at least one medication provided, prescribed, or continued, for a total of 2.6 billion medications overall. Analgesics (pain relievers) were the most common, accounting for 13.6 percent of all drugs prescribed, and were most often used during primary care and emergency department visits.
  • The emergency department served as the route of admission to hospital inpatient services for roughly 50 percent of non-obstetric hospital patients in 2006, up from 36 percent in 1996.
  • Patients with Medicaid use the emergency department more frequently than patients with private insurance – 82 per 100 persons for Medicaid vs. 21 per 100 for private insurance.
  • Most emergency department visits occurred after business hours (defined as 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays), when 63 percent of adults and 73 percent of children younger than age 15 arrived.
  • The overall average waiting time to see a physician in the Emergency Department was nearly 56 minutes.
  • Over the past 36 years, the percent of hospital inpatients who were 65 years of age and older grew from 20 percent in 1970 to 38 percent in 2006. Over the same time period, the percent of inpatients who were 75 years of age and older grew from 9 percent to over 24 percent.
  • The rate of knee replacement for those aged 65 years old and over increased 46 percent between 2000 and 2006, and the rate doubled among those aged 45-64 years during the same time period.
  • The rate of coronary atherosclerosis (clogged heart arteries) more than doubled during the 1990s but since 2002 declined for all age groups, particularly for those 65 years and over.
  • Between 1996 and 2006, the percentage of visits to hospital outpatient departments made by adults 18 years and over with chronic diabetes increased by 43 percent and visits with chronic high blood pressure increased by 51 percent.

The new series of health care reports can be accessed at


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