California's emergency departments (EDs) provide a critical source of health care to people experiencing acute medical conditions or suffering from trauma and injury, and are expected to treat all patients regardless of their ability to pay. They also provide an important entry point for inpatient hospital care. In 2016, 334 acute care hospitals in California operated EDs. The number of EDs has remained relatively stable since 2006, while the number of individual treatment stations within them has grown by 1,802 to reach 7,889 in 2016. California's EDs handled 14.6 million visits in 2016, an increase of 44% since 2006. California's Emergency Departments: Use Grows as Coverage Expands looks at the most recent data on supply, patient visits, and the quality of emergency departments in California, as well as trends from 2006 to 2016. Long ED stays may be a sign that the ED is overcrowded or understaffed, or that there is a lack of available inpatient beds. KEY FINDINGS INCLUDE: (1) The supply of ED treatment stations increased in regions throughout the state, even those that experienced a decrease in emergency departments. Use of EDs varied widely across California, from a low of 311 visits per 1,000 residents in Orange County to a high of 516 in Northern and Sierra Counties. (2) Medi-Cal was the expected payer for 43% of all ED visits in 2016, compared to 26% for private payers and 21% for Medicare. (3) Approximately one in every eight ED visits resulted in a hospital admission. Still, there were many serious conditions among patients who were not admitted, including one in ten visits classified as severe and posing immediate threat to life or physical function. (4) California ED patients who were sent home spent nearly three hours in the ED, 24 minutes longer than the median stay nationwide. California ED patients who were admitted spent over five and a half hours in the ED, an hour longer than the national median.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright holder. Further use of the material is subject to CC BY-NC-ND license. (More information)