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Non-COVID Emergency Department Visits Decreased During Pandemic, but More Visits Required Admission

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While the average volume of emergency department visits among Medicare patients not related to COVID-19 during much of the pandemic was 22 to 25 percent lower than it was beginning in 2018, the proportion of visits that resulted in hospital admission increased anywhere from 4 percent to 23 percent throughout 2020, according to an AHRQ-funded study published in Health Affairs.

Hospital admissions from the emergency department increased primarily among patients with less serious illness, while admissions and death rates for those with a more serious conditions did not change significantly. Researchers suggested that there is need for balance in the messaging during a pandemic so patients who are truly in need of emergency care do not delay seeking it. They also recommend that policy should redirect less serious cases while not impacting access to truly emergency care.

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