Senior Visits To EDs Increasing, Particularly Among Blacks

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Emergency Department Visits

A review of hospital datafrom 1993 to 2003 showed a 34% increase in emergency department visits bypeople ages 65 to 74, a higher number than any other age group, according to astudy by researchers from George Washington University published in the Annals ofEmergency Medicine, Reuters reports.

Researchers said that the increase could be attributed to:

  • Health care advances leading people to live longer lives with chronic diseases;

  • Seniors' barriers to access of timely primary care; and

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  • The rate of those with chronic diseases who could not afford needed primary care before becoming eligible for Medicare.

During the 11-year study period, the rate ofblacks ages 65 to 74 who visited EDs was 77 visits per 100 people; the rateamong whites in the same age group was 36 visits per 100 people.

The study's authors said more research would be needed to determine the reasonsfor the disparity, but possibilities include:

  • The higher prevalence of diabetes and hypertension in blacks; and

  • Almost twice as many blacks as whites lack health insurance, especially among low-income blacks.

"Seniorsare using the emergency department more and more frequently, and given theneeds of this population and the nature of their medical problems, the currentstate of overcrowding is likely to continue to escalate dramatically,"Mary Pat McKay, a study co-author from GWU's MedicalCenter in Washington, D.C.,said.

"That there is a racial disparity didn't surprise me. What surprised me isthat it's getting worse," McKay said, adding, "The system is brokenand the point of the study is that it's going to get worse" (Baertlein, Reuters,12/5).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health DisparitiesReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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