If you’re wondering where your income went, here’s another set of data to add to the reported real drop in physician income. While ambulatory visits have risen rapidly over the past decade, this growth stalled between 2001 and 2004. On average, there were 3.16 visits per person to physicians in 2004. SInce 2001, the percentage of visits where private insurance was the expected payment dropped by 5%, but the percentage from Medicaid and SCHIP climbed by 36%. The latter may well reflect the success of bringing in children under the SCHIP program.
This date comes from the new reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examining ambulatory health care in America and offer insights into utlilization that are a good tool for planning for physician practices. The report analyzes the more than 1 billion visits a year Americans make to doctors’ offices, emergency rooms and hospital outpatient departments. The latest in an annual series, these reports provide a comprehensive analysis of visits to ambulatory health care settings in 2004.
Ambulatory care visits have increased at three times the rate of population growth over the past decade.
Infants under the 1 year of age had the highest rate of visits to primary care offices and hospital outpatient and emergency departments, compared to other age groups. Medicare patients have the second highest rate. There is a very important cavaet here: while visit rates generally increased through 2001, they have been relatively flat for most groups since 2001.
Hospital settings as opposed to physician offices were used more frequently for ambulatory care by Medicaid recipients and by patients with self-pay, no charge, or charity indicated as the expected source of payment.
The amount of time a patient waits before seeing a physician in the emergency department increased from 38 minutes in 1997 to 47 minutes in 2004. There was no change in the average time–about 16 minutes–a patient spends face-to-face with a doctor in an office visit.
For the first time, seasonal estimates are available and show that overall, office visits decreased from spring through the summer. Visits for mental disorders increased during the fall. Emergency injury visits were more likely to occur in the spring than other seasons.
Newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are presented in a Health E-Stat (web-based summary) and three reports: “National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2004 Summary,” (PDF) “National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2004 Emergency Department Summary,” (PDF) and “National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2004 Outpatient Departments Summary,” (PDF) available at www.cdc.gov/nchs.