Four million hospital admissions potentially unnecessary

Research Activities, December 2010, No. 364

About one in 10 of the nearly 40 million hospitalizations in 2008 were potentially avoidable, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The admissions were for conditions such as diabetes, dehydration, and certain heart conditions and infections for which hospitalization can be avoided if treated with appropriate outpatient care.

AHRQ data also found that:

  • Rural hospitals had nearly twice as many potentially preventable admissions as urban hospitals (16 percent vs. 9 percent).
  • People from lower-income communities accounted for nearly one-third more potentially preventable hospital admissions than patients from higher-income communities (12 percent vs. 8 percent).
  • Hospitals in the West had the fewest potentially preventable admissions (8 percent) while those in the South had the most (11 percent).
  • Patients aged 65 and older accounted for 60 percent of the potentially preventable hospitalizations.

This AHRQ News and Numbers is based on data in Potentially Preventable Hospitalizations for Acute and Chronic Conditions, 2008 ( The report uses data from the 2008 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays in all short-term, non-Federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 90 percent of all discharges in the United States and include both insured and uninsured patients.

For other information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of December 2010
Internet Citation: Four million hospital admissions potentially unnecessary: Research Activities, December 2010, No. 364. December 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.