A new study found that 3.5 percent of all emergency department visits in the United States were avoidable and for non-life-threatening conditions.
The study, published in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care, found the top three discharge diagnoses for hospital emergency departments in the United States were alcohol abuse, dental disorders and mood disorders like anxiety or depression.
Researchers defined avoidable visits as those where there was no requirement of diagnostic or screening services, procedures or medications, with patients being discharged home.
Researchers analyzed data from 424 million emergency department visits by patients age 18 to 64 from 2005 to 2011 and found 6.8 percent of all avoidable visits were due to alcohol abuse or mood disorders.
Roughly 3.9 percent of avoidable visits were due to dental disorders of the teeth and jaw. The study found that 16.9 percent of all mood disorder visits were avoidable, 10.4 percent of all alcohol-related visits were avoidable and 4.9 percent of all dental visits were avoidable.
Of all the avoidable visits to the emergency department during the study period, 14 percent were made by ambulance
The findings suggest that pressure on emergency departments could be alleviated by addressing gaps in the provision of mental health and dental care to be able to treat these patients at a lower cost at a different type of facility.