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Med Care Res Rev. 1995 Nov;52(4):453-74.

The use of hospital emergency departments for nonurgent health problems: a national perspective.

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  • 1Center for Studying Health System Change, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, USA.


The use of the hospital emergency department (ED) for nonurgent health problems has been a subject of considerable controversy, in part because there is no widely accepted definition of "nonurgent." Elimination or substantial reduction in nonurgent ED use is frequently offered as a strategy for reducing health expenditures. Previous studies, often limited to individual hospitals or communities, have limited generalizability and do not permit examination of multiple factors likely to influence nonurgent ED utilization or examination of ED use for nonurgent problems in the context of overall outpatient utilization. This analysis of the 1987 National Medical Expenditure Survey (NMES) provides a nationally representative examination of nonurgent ED utilization that describes the frequency of ED use for nonurgent problems, characteristics of individuals that are associated with an increased likelihood of nonurgent ED use, the use of other outpatient physician services, and expenditures associated with nonurgent ED visits.

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