Nearly half of medical care in the US is happening in emergency rooms

Nov. 21, 2017

M. Spencer Green/AP

A recent study from researchers at the University of Maryland found that 47.7% — nearly half — of all medical care in the U.S. happens in emergency rooms.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Among some groups — including African-Americans, women and Medicare and Medicaid recipients, for example — those numbers were even higher.

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

The study examined data from 1996 to 2010. Dr. David Marcozzi, an author of the study, said he was "stunned by the results."

Eric Gay/AP

This research underscores the fact that emergency departments are critical to our nation’s health care delivery system.

— Dr. David Marcozzi

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

According to Marcozzi, these findings mean that emergency rooms are providing vital health care, especially for groups that face other barriers to accessing it.

Matt Slocum/AP

The data might suggest that emergency care provides the type of care that individuals actually want or need, 24 hours a day.

— Dr. David Marcozzi

Noah Berger/AP

However, this may mean that the people who turn to emergency rooms for care are missing out on the benefits of having a primary care doctor.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

According to Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy of WebMD, who wasn’t involved in the study, “the emergency room isn’t the place to meet that full spectrum of medical needs.”

Darren McCollester/Getty Images

She said it also means that an ER is “not working as efficiently as it could … because we’ve got so many people coming in for what isn’t an emergency.”

Julio Cortez/AP

Marcozzi acknowledged that there are systemic issues driving people to use emergency rooms for health care — but the reality is, that’s where people are going.

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Marcozzi said health care policy needs to reflect the fact that nearly half of health care in the U.S. is happening at the ER.

Paul Sancya/AP

I’m all about trying to improve our system and improve access points. But the data indicates that … this is a significant component of our health care system.

— Dr. David Marcozzi

Carlos Osorio/AP