Emergency Department Usage by Uninsured Patients in Galveston County, Texas.

Emergency Department Usage by Uninsured Patients in Galveston County, Texas.

Emergency Department Usage by Uninsured Patients in Galveston County, Texas.

The number of uninsured Texas residents who rely on the medical emergency department as their primary health care provider continues to increase. Unfortunately, little information about the characteristics of this group of emergency department users is available. Using an administrative billing database, we conducted a descriptive study to examine the demographic and clinical features of 17,110 consecutive patients without medical insurance who presented to the emergency department of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston over a 12-month period. We also analyzed the risk of multiple emergency department visits or hospitalization according to demographic characteristics. Twenty percent of the study population made two or more emergency department visits during the study period; 19% of the population was admitted to the hospital via the emergency department. The risk of multiple emergency department visits was significantly elevated among African Americans and increased in a stepwise fashion according to age. The risk of being hospitalized was significantly reduced among females, African Americans, and Hispanics. There was an age-related monotonic increase in the risk of hospitalization. Abdominal pain, cellulitis, and spinal disorders were the most common primary diagnoses in patients who made multiple emergency department visits. Hospitalization occurred most frequently in patients with a primary diagnosis of chest pain, nonischemic heart disease, or an affective disorder. Additional studies of emergency department usage by uninsured patients from other regions of Texas are warranted. Such data may prove helpful in developing effective community-based alternatives to the emergency department for this growing segment of our population. Local policymakers who are responsible for the development of safety net programs throughout the state should find this information particularly useful. **********

Emergency Department Usage by Uninsured Patients in Galveston County, Texas.

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