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National Health Care Surveys

NCHS Factsheet, May 2015

PDF Version (906 KB)


About NCHS

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) is the Nation’s principal health statistics agency, providing data to identify and address health issues. NCHS compiles statistical information to help guide public health and health policy decisions.

Collaborating with other public and private health partners, NCHS employs a variety of data collection mechanisms to obtain accurate information from multiple sources. This process provides a broad perspective to help us understand the population’s health, influences on health, and health outcomes


National Health Care Surveys

The National Health Care Surveys are a group of surveys designed to provide information about the organizations and providers that deliver health care, the services rendered, and the patients served across diverse settings. Provider sites surveyed include doctors’ offices, community health centers, ambulatory surgery centers, hospital outpatient and emergency departments, inpatient hospital units, residential care facilities, adult day care facilities, nursing homes, home health agencies and hospice organizations.

National Health Care Surveys are used to study:

  • Resource use, including staffing
  • Quality of care, including patient safety
  • Clinical management of specific conditions
  • Disparities in use and quality of care
  • Diffusion of health care technologies including drugs, surgical procedures, and information technologies
  • Effects of policy changes


Examples of NCHS Data

Electronic Medical Records/Electronic Health Records

The Health Information and Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 provided incentive payments through Medicare and Medicaid to health care providers that use certified electronic health records (EHR) systems to achieve specified improvements in care delivery.

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information uses NCHS data to monitor provider adoption of electronic medical records or electronic health records (EHR or EMR). In 2012, 71.8% of office-based physicians reported using any type of EHR system, up from 34.8% in 2007. Of these physicians, 39.6% had an EHR system with features meeting the criteria of a basic system, up from 11.8% in 2007; 23.5% of office-based physicians had an EHR system with features meeting the criteria of a fully functional system in 2012, up from 3.8% in 2007.

Figure 1 is a bar char that shows the percent of physicians whose electronic health record system provided selected benefits in the U.S. for 2011

NOTES: Rates based on residential care community residents per 1,000 persons aged 85 and over on any given day. The national rate is 61.
SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health Care Surveys, National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, National Electronic Health Records Survey 2007–2013.


Residential Care

Residential care, including assisted living, provides long-term care services to individuals who cannot live independently but generally do not require the skilled level of care provided by nursing homes. On a typical day in 2012, for every 1,000 people aged 85 years or over in the United States, 61 resided in a residential care community. Use of these providers varied by state where 17 states—mostly in the upper West and upper Midwest—had higher rates than the national average. Residential care daily use rates ranged from 6 in Iowa to 151 in Washington. Most state adult day rates were below the national rate, but 13 states had a higher rate, including California (18) and Alaska (24).

Figure 2 is a map of the United States showing the percentage of office-based physicians accepting new Medicaid patients in 2011.

NOTES: Rates based on residential care community residents per 1,000 persons aged 85 and over on any given day. The national rate is 61.
SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health Care Surveys, National Study of Long-Term Care Providers, 2012.


Volume of Emergency Department (ED) Visits Affects Wait Time

Emergency department (ED) wait time is an indication of overcrowding. In 2009, mean wait times for treatment increased as the annual volume of visits increased. The mean wait time was 33.8 minutes in EDs with less than 20,000 annual visits, compared with 69.8 minutes in EDs with 50,000 or more annual visits.

In some hospitals, increased ED visit volume resulted in ED crowding (boarding admitted patients in hallways or other spaces), ambulance diversion, and increased wait times for minor, and sometimes serious problems, such as myocardial infarction.

Mean wait times were longer in EDs that went on ambulance diversion or that boarded admitted patients.

Figure 3 is a bar chart that shows the mean wait time for treatment by annual emergency department visit volume in the U.S. in 2009.

SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health Care Surveys, National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, 2011.


Challenges and Future Opportunities

  • Continue to test methods of data collection of electronic health records.
  • Integrate existing surveys in the hospital setting to the new National Hospital Care Survey, and long-term care surveys to the new National Study of Long-Term Care Providers.
  • Expand range of providers and data currently collected for better coverage of the health care system.

For further information about NCHS and its programs, visit the NCHS Website, or call the Office of Planning, Budget and Legislation at 301-458-4100.

For further information on NHCS Survey, visit the NHCS homepage.