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AHRQ Stats: Admissions From Emergency Departments During the COVID-19 Pandemic Across 29 States

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A new AHRQ brief found that despite there being just 3.8 million emergency department visits in April 2020 across 29 states compared with 7 million in April of the previous year, the percentage of visits that resulted in admissions rose from 13.4 in April 2019 to 18.1 in April 2020.

The Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Statistical Brief – Changes in Emergency Department Visits in the Initial Period of the COVID-19 Pandemic (April−December 2020), 29 States – presents data on ED visits from 29 States based on the 2019 and 2020 State Emergency Department Databases (SEDD) and a subset of the State Inpatient Databases (SID) that includes information on ED visits that result in an admission to the same hospital. The initial period of the COVID-19 pandemic (April–December 2020) is compared with the same months of the prior year. ED visit volume and ED admission rate (defined as the percentage of ED visits that result in hospitalization) are presented for both time periods across all conditions and for COVID-19-related visits specifically. In addition, the variation in the ED admission rate across the 29 States is provided. Information on changes in ED visit volume and ED admission rate is presented by patient characteristics and for the conditions with the largest percentage increase and decrease between April–December 2019 and April–December 2020.

Brief highlights:

  • Overall, the number of emergency department (ED) visits across 29 States was lower each month in April–December 2020 compared with the same month in 2019 (e.g., April: 3.8M vs. 7.0M), whereas the ED admission rate was higher (e.g., April: 18.1 vs. 13.4 percent).
  • The total number of ED visits decreased by 25.7 percent in April–December 2020 compared with the same months in 2019; the number of ED visits resulting in hospitalization decreased by 9.8 percent over the same period.
  • The percentage of COVID-19-related ED visits resulting in hospitalization varied considerably by month and State, with the largest variation in May 2020 and the smallest variation in November and December 2020.
  • The number of treat-and-release ED visits associated with firearm-related injuries increased from 30,000 visits during April–December 2019 to 39,700 visits during the same months of 2020.
  • The number of treat-and-release ED visits for a first-listed diagnosis of influenza decreased 96.0 percent (from 404,000 to 16,300 visits).

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