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Length of ER Visit Will Increase With Aging Population

FRIDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- The aging population will not cause emergency department visits to increase in frequency, but their duration will increase, according to research published in the July issue of Health Affairs.

Daniel J. Pallin, M.D., from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues applied current age-specific emergency department visit rates to the population structure anticipated by the Census Bureau through 2050.

The researchers found that demographic shifts will not cause the number of emergency department visits to increase any more than would be expected from population growth. However, increases in visit lengths and the likelihood of hospitalization are expected to increase. The aggregate amount of time patients spend in emergency departments nationwide will increase 10 percent faster than population growth, meaning that emergency department capacity needs to increase by 10 percent, even without an increase in the number of visits. Hospitals will need to expand capacity faster than required by raw population growth alone because hospital admissions from the emergency department will increase 23 percent faster than population growth.

"To keep pace, hospitals would have to grow faster than the population, and they must optimize the movement of admitted emergency department patients to inpatient units," the authors write.

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