Emergency Visits At All-Time High: Only 4.3 Percent Non-Urgent

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Emergency visits climbed to a record high of 145.6 million patients in 2016, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This once again confirms that visits have increased substantially since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – equivalent to the entire U.S. population visiting an emergency department every two and a half years.

This is a four-million visit increase over 2014 when there were 141.4 million visits, according to the CDC. Only 4.3 percent of emergency patients had non-urgent medical symptoms.

“Emergency departments are providing an essential service that most patients can’t get anywhere else,” said Vidor Friedman, MD, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “What other doctor will see you at two a.m.—no appointment necessary? Nearly two-thirds of visits occurred after business hours when doctors’ offices are closed. The highest users of emergency care include patients over age 75, infants and nursing home residents.”

Injuries, stomach pain and chest pain top the list for conditions bringing patients to the emergency department.

An estimated 42.2 million, or 29 percent of emergency department visits. By comparison, in 2009 there were an estimated 45 million encounters for injuries. This trend reflects the success of many injury prevention programs.  The leading causes of injury, poisoning, and adverse effect-related emergency department visits were falls (10.5 million visits or 23 percent of total injury visits) and motor vehicle crashes (3.7 million visits or 8 percent of total injury visits.) Additionally, there were 5.5 million visits with a primary diagnosis in the emergency department of mental disorder. For about 2.4 million visits, a mental health provider saw the patient in the emergency department.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is the national medical society representing emergency medicine. Through continuing education, research, public education, and advocacy, ACEP advances emergency care on behalf of its 40,000 emergency physician members, and the more than 150 million people they treat on an annual basis. For more information, visit and

Contact: Steve Arnoff | | Twitter @EmergencyDocs

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