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America's Health-Care in Numbers

America's Health Care in Numbers CDC Data Paint Surprising Picture of How Americans Get Health Care WebMD Medical News By Daniel J. DeNoon Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD More from...

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

-- Mark Twain

Aug. 6, 2008 -- Politicians love to talk about America's health care system. But what are they talking about?

Even if you think you know what health care is like in the U.S., you may be in for a surprise. The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics has just released the latest facts and figures on American health care. The latest year included in the reports is 2006.

Here's a sample of the smorgasbord of health care facts contained in the reports, presented in a style borrowed from Harper's Index. All of the data are from National Health Statistics Reports released on Aug. 6, 2006, or July 30, 2008.

Seeing a Doctor

Growth of walk-in visits to doctors' offices and hospital outpatient and emergency departments in the decade 1996-2006: +26%

Growth of the U.S. population in that time: +11%

Percentage of walk-in medical visits that result in a prescription for medication: 71.6

Total number of prescriptions written for walk-in patients in 2006: 2,600,000,000

First, second, and third most frequently prescribed types of drug: heart/blood-pressure drugs, painkillers, asthma/lung-disease drugs

Most common diagnosis during walk-in health-care visits: high blood pressure

Percentage of health-care visits for routine health or pregnancy check-ups: 18.3

Percentage change, 1996-2006, in adult visits to hospital outpatient departments for diabetes: +43%

Percentage change, 1996-2006, in adult visits to hospital outpatient departments for chronic high blood pressure: +51%

Percentage of doctors' office visits for preventive care: 19.2

Percentage change in white Americans' visits to medical specialists, 1996-2006: +28%

Percentage change in African-Americans' visits to medical specialists, 1996-2006: 0

Percentage change in white Americans' visits to emergency departments, 1996-2006: +17%

Percentage change in African-Americans' visits to emergency departments, 1996-2006: +40%

Percentage of medical visits made to private doctors' offices in ZIP codes where fewer than 20% of residents are below the poverty level: 81.7

Percentage of medical visits made to private doctors' offices in ZIP codes where more than 40% of residents are below the poverty level: 54.2

Doctor's Office Use

Average number of times per year an American visits a doctor's office: 3

Average number of times per year an American visits a doctor's office, hospital outpatient department, or emergency department: 4

Percentage of office visits made to primary-care doctors: 58.3

Percentage of office visits made to medical specialists: 22

Percentage of office visits made to surgical specialists: 19.7

Rank of neurologists, general surgeons, urologists, and cardiologists among most-referred-to specialists: 1,2,3,4

Percentage of visits made to the office of doctors who owned the practice: 72.3

Percentage of visits made to single-doctor offices: 31.8

Percentage of office visits made by women: 59.1

Percentage of doctors' office visits made by white Americans: 84.8

Percentage made by African-Americans: 9.7

Percentage of office visits with fewer than 10 minutes of face-to-face time with a doctor: 16.7

Percentage with 16-60 minutes: 46.3

Percentage with zero time with a doctor: 3.7

Average minutes spent with a doctor during an office visit: 22

Type of doctor that spends the most face-to-face time with a patient during an office visit: psychiatrist

Emergency Department Use

Percentage of African-Americans' medical visits made to emergency rooms: 38

Percentage of white American's medical visits made to emergency rooms: 17

Emergency department visits per 100 patients enrolled in Medicaid: 82

Emergency department visits per 100 patients with private insurance: 21

Average emergency department visits per 100 patients: 40.5

Percentage change in emergency room visits in the decade 1996-2006: +18%

Average number of visits to U.S. emergency rooms in 2006, per minute: 227

Percentage of emergency room visits made by people with no health insurance: 17.4

Percentage of emergency room visits deemed non-urgent: 12

Percentage of emergency room visits due to unintentional falls: 20.3

Percentage of emergency room visits due to motor-vehicle wrecks: 9.5

Percentage of emergency room visits due to assault: 5.9

Percentage of emergency room visits due to intentional, self-inflicted injury: 1.4

Peak hour for new arrivals to emergency departments: 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Least busy hour: 4 a.m. to 5 a.m.

Hospital Use

Average hospital stay for patients aged 65 and older, in days: 5.5

For patients aged 45-64: 5.0

For patients aged 15-44: 3.7

For patients under age 15: 4.8

Patients discharged from U.S. hospitals in 2006, not counting newborns: 34,900,000

Rank of heart disease and childbirth among most common reasons for hospital stay: 1,2

Diagnosis with longest average hospital stay: psychosis

Number of operations performed in U.S. hospitals in 2006: 46,000,000

Percentage of operations undergone by men for heart disease: 22

Sex that undergoes the most operations on the digestive system: female

 

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