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Vital Health Stat 13. 2006 Feb;(159):1-66.

Ambulatory care visits to physician offices, hospital outpatient departments, and emergency departments: United States, 2001-02.

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Division of Health Care Statistics, US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, Maryland 20782, USA.



This report presents statistics on ambulatory care visits to physician offices, hospital outpatient departments, and hospital emergency departments. Ambulatory medical care utilization is described in terms of patient, practice, facility, and visit characteristics. Office-based care is further subdivided into the categories of primary care, surgical specialties, and medical specialties.


Data from the 2001 and 2002 National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys (NAMCS) and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys (NHAMCS) were combined to produce averaged annual estimates of ambulatory medical care utilization.


Patients in the United States made an estimated 1.1 billion visits per year in 2001 and 2002 (annual average) to physician offices, hospital outpatient departments, and emergency departments, a rate of 3.8 visits per person annually. This marks the first time that the annual estimate of visits has surpassed the billion mark and is also a significant increase from the 1999-2000 estimate. The change was primarily driven by a jump in the number of visits to primary care physicians. The distribution of visits by patient age, sex, race, expected source of payment, geographic region, and whether the visit occurred in a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) varied across ambulatory care settings. Females had higher visit rates than males to all settings except office-based surgical specialists and emergency departments (ED). Black persons had higher visit rates than white persons to hospital outpatient and emergency departments, but lower visit rates to office-based surgical and medical specialists. Visits to emergency departments were more likely to be patient-paid or no charge, possibly reflecting a lack of private health insurance, than were visits to physician offices. Visit rates to office-based medical specialists were more than double in MSAs compared with non-MSAs.

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