Truven Health Analytics Study Finds Most Emergency Room Visits Made by Privately-Insured Patients Are Avoidable

Just 29 percent of ER patients required emergency attention

Truven Health Analytics Study Finds Most Emergency Room Visits Made by Privately-Insured Patients Are Avoidable

For Truven Health AnalyticsJ. Roderick, Inc.Brian Erni, 631-584-2200

It’s not just the uninsured who use the emergency room for non-urgent healthcare. According to a new study from ™, formerly the Healthcare business of Thomson Reuters, 71 percent of emergency room visits made by patients with employer-sponsored insurance coverage are for causes that do not require immediate attention in the emergency room, or are preventable with proper outpatient care.

The study, , examined insurance claims data for over 6.5 million emergency room visits made by commercially insured individuals, under age 65, in calendar year 2010. It found that just 29 percent of patients required immediate attention in the emergency room.

Twenty-four percent did not require immediate attention, 41 percent received care that could have safely been provided in a primary care setting, and 6 percent received care that would have been preventable or avoidable with proper primary care. The analysis surmises that diverting just 10 percent of these unnecessary visits to an office setting would result in a net savings of $18.68 in total allowed costs per health plan member, per year. Based on the 24 million enrollees represented in the Truven Health MarketScan® databases, this represents a total potential savings of $461 million each year.

“Inappropriate use of emergency department services has become a major source of healthcare system waste,” said John Azzolini, MPH, MBA, director of practice leadership at Truven Health Analytics. “Conventional wisdom has previously suggested that this issue was confined to the Medicaid, Medicare and uninsured populations, but our new research shows that the privately-insured population’s use of the ER is avoidable approximately three quarters of the time. This is important data to consider as we start to evaluate the effective use of healthcare resources under the ACA.”

The study also broke down findings by patient demographics, region, and clinical condition. Women were found to be 17 percent more likely to visit the emergency room than males, and have a higher number of non-emergency visits. Infants younger than 12-months old were found to have the highest percentage of non-emergency visits (82 percent), while patients between 60-64 years old had the lowest (67 percent). The top three non-emergent diagnoses were joint disorders, atopic dermatitis, and other soft tissue diseases.

“Hospital administrators have faced enormous challenges managing the use of their emergency departments because, historically, it has been very difficult to identify and categorize these visits,” said Mike Boswood, president and CEO of Truven Health Analytics. “Thanks to the robust, detailed claims data in our MarketScan® databases, our team was able to fully categorize these visits, delivering more than just a wake up call about the full scope of inappropriate ER use, but also a blueprint for how to measure the problem and start the process of correcting it.”

The Truven Health , which contain de-identified healthcare claims data reflecting the real-world medical care of over 170 million unique patients across the U.S. since 1995, were used to conduct this analysis. The methodology used to determine emergent and non-emergent care was based on an algorithm originally developed in 2000 by researchers from the NYU Center for Health and Public Services Research and the United Hospital Fund of New York. The algorithm was then updated by Truven Health Analytics in 2012 to reflect changes in diagnosis coding.

To read the complete study, follow this link:

Truven Health Analytics delivers unbiased information, analytic tools, benchmarks and services to the healthcare industry. Hospitals, government agencies, employers, health plans, clinicians, and pharmaceutical companies have relied on its solutions for over 30 years. Truven Health Analytics combines deep clinical, financial and healthcare management expertise with innovative technology platforms and information assets to make healthcare better, collaborating with customers to uncover and realize opportunities for improving quality, efficiency, and outcomes. Truven Health Analytics owns some of the most trusted, proven brands in healthcare such as Micromedex, Action OI and Advantage Suite. Truven Health Analytics employs approximately 2000 people worldwide and has its principal offices in Ann Arbor, Mich; Chicago; and Denver. For more information, please visit

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