Physician Visits Reach 824 Million in 2000

More Cardiovascular-Renal, Hormone and Metabolic/Nutrient Drug Visits

For Release: Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Contact: NCHS Press Office (301) 458-4800


National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2000 Summary. Advance Data No. 328. 32 pp. (PHS) 2002-1250. [PDF – 1.3 MB]

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey on doctor visits shows that there were 823.5 million office visits during 2000. The number of doctor visits has been increasing over the past decade, due to population growth and a larger senior population which visits the doctor at a higher rate. These population changes also affect the types and volume of drugs provided during the visits.

The survey documented a 21-percent increase over the past several years in the percent of office visits where a cardiovascular-renal drug, such as ACE inhibitors, beta blockers or anti-hypertensives, was ordered or prescribed for patients. From 1997 to 2000, there was a 25 percent increase in the percent of visits where a hormone was prescribed, while the increase in the percent of metabolic/nutrient drug visits (vitamins, minerals, calcium) rose by 41 percent. These increases reflect the drug use patterns of the health-conscious baby boomers, and a growing population of seniors whose chronic conditions are treated by a variety of medications, many of which are new to the market.

Overall there were 1.3 billion drugs ordered or prescribed during office visits in 2000. In two-thirds of all visits the patient received one or more drugs. The most frequently prescribed drug was Claritin, followed by Lipitor, Synthroid, Premarin and Amoxicillin. Acetaminophen was the generic substance that was most frequently used in drugs ordered or provided by the physician during office visits in 2000.

This latest study on ambulatory medical care in America profiles doctor visits in 2000 and highlights changes that have occurred in physician office practices. CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics conducts this annual survey of physician visits as part of its National Health Care Survey which also covers hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, and home health care.

“Most Americans receive their health care in the doctor’s office,” said Dr. David Fleming, CDC Acting Director, “and therefore we can learn a great deal about Americans’ health by studying the symptoms and diseases presented, the drugs provided, the prevention services offered, and the treatments received in the doctor’s office.”

Other key findings in the study:

  • In 2000, doctors spent an average of about 19 minutes with each patient, with most visits ranging from 6 to 30 minutes and varying by physician specialty.
  • Hypertension is still the most frequent diagnosis in office visits, followed by acute upper respiratory infections. Visits for diabetes have been on the rise since 1997. Diabetes was the third most frequent diagnosis in 2000, up from eighth in 1997.
  • General medical examination was the most frequent reason for a visit to the doctor in 2000.
  • Physicians ordered or provided complementary and alternative medicine (such as herbal therapy, massage and acupuncture) at 31 million visits in 2000.
  • There was an increasing trend in the proportion of office visits where the physician was the owner or part-owner of the practice (76 percent in 2000 compared to 66 percent in 1997). In contrast the proportion of visits to offices owned by hospitals dropped from 7.6 percent in 1997 to less than 3 percent in 2000.

The National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey is a national probability survey of visits to office-based physicians. For more about the survey visit the CDC/NCHS Web site.

CDC protects people’s health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national and international organizations.