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New online health care information resource is available from AHRQ

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has launched a new series of Web-based publications, the HCUP Statistical Briefs containing information from its Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). These publications will provide concise, easy-to-read information on hospital care, costs, quality, utilization, and access for all payers (including Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, and the uninsured). Each Statistical Brief covers an important health care issue.

The first two HCUP Statistical Briefs focus on the important topic of emergency department use in the United States. There is continued concern about both the cost and health implications of overuse and inappropriate use of emergency departments (ED), particularly for people with limited access to other means of care. The third Statistical Brief describes the rising trend in pressure sores among hospitalized patients. Future Statistical Briefs from HCUP are scheduled for monthly release.

According to Hospital Admissions That Began in the Emergency Department, 2003, HCUP Statistical Brief #1, more than half (55 percent) of the 29.3 million admissions to U.S. community hospitals for conditions other than pregnancy, childbirth, and neonatal care begin in the hospital ED. Data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, an AHRQ database that is part of HCUP, show that in 2003 more than 16 million Americans, including children, were admitted for further treatment or observation. People in the Northeast were the most likely to enter hospitals through EDs relative to the population in their region and those in the West were the least likely. The average hospital stay for a patient admitted through the ED cost $7,400. Government payers—Medicare and State Medicaid programs—bore the greatest burden of hospital admissions through the ED, covering 66 percent of all such admissions.

The second brief, Reasons for Being Admitted to the Hospital through the Emergency Department, 2003, HCUP Statistical Brief #2, indicates that more than one-fourth (26 percent) of all patients admitted through the ED had heart or blood vessel diseases, 15 percent had respiratory diseases, 14 percent had digestive disorders, and 11 percent had injuries. Pneumonia led the top 20 specific conditions warranting hospitalization through the ED with 935,000 admissions in 2003. Other leading conditions included congestive heart failure, chest pain, hardening of the arteries, and heart attack.

Findings from the third statistical brief, Hospitalizations Related to Pressure Sores, 2003, HCUP Statistical Brief #3, show that pressure sores, or decubitus ulcers, are increasingly common in U.S. hospitalizations. In 2003, there were 455,000 hospital stays during which pressure sores were noted—a 63 percent increase from 1993 when there were about 280,000 hospital stays during which pressure sores were noted. During this same time period, the total number of hospitalizations increased by only 11 percent and the number of stays for patients 65 and older increased by only 14 percent.

For more information about HCUP and to view the Statistical Briefs, please visit

Editor's Note: HCUP is a family of powerful health care databases, software tools, and products for advancing research. Sponsored by AHRQ, HCUP includes the largest all-payer, encounter-level collection of longitudinal health care data (inpatient, ambulatory surgery, and emergency department) in the United States, beginning in 1988. HCUP is a Federal-State-Industry Partnership that brings together the data collection efforts of many organizations—such as State data organizations, hospital associations, private data organizations, and the Federal Government—to create a national information resource. HCUP would not be possible without the contributions of data collection Partners from across the Nation.

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