Top Causes Of “Avoidable” Emergency Room Visits Are Related To Alcohol And Mental Health Conditions

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Top Causes Of “Avoidable” Emergency Room Visits Are Related To Alcohol And Mental Health Conditions

According to a new study, a significant amount of all emergency room visits are avoidable. In addition to visits related to alcohol and mental health conditions, dental issues are also among the top reasons for avoidable trips to the ER.

Unfortunately, the ER is often not fully-equipped to deal with some of these problems, as is designed to treat people with conditions that threaten life or limb.

The research, which was published online in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care, found that an estimated 3.3% of all emergency department visits were “avoidable.” Among these, 14% arrived via ambulance.

Avoidable visits were defined as discharged visits that did not require diagnostic testing, procedures, or medication. For the study, researchers analyzed data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, which included 424 million U.S. emergency department visits from 2005-2011 among patients 18-64 year of age.

The top five complaints (reasons) for these visits included toothache, back pain, headache, symptoms related to psychosis, and sore throat.

The top ICD-9 diagnoses of “avoidable” visits included alcohol misuse, depressive disorders, and dental disorders. Alcohol-related problems and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression account for nearly 7% of all avoidable visits, and dental disorders accounted for just under 4%.

Also, the researchers determined that among all visits of each category, 10% of all alcohol-related visits, 17% of all mood disorder-related visits, and 5% of all dental-related visits were avoidable.

Researchers said that these findings suggest that initiatives could reduce pressure on emergency departments by addressing disparities in dental and mental health care to treat this group of patients at a lower cost elsewhere (these visits can increase the cost of health insurance.)

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology


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