TUESDAY, Dec. 29, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Older adults often use the emergency department when they cannot get timely outpatient appointments, according to a report published online Dec. 15 based on the results of the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging.

Preeti Malani, M.D., from the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation in Ann Arbor, and colleagues surveyed a national sample of adults (aged 50 to 80 years) about their experiences with emergency department visits.

According to the results of the survey, on average, one in four older adults (26 percent) had an emergency department visit in the past two years; this number was higher for adults aged 65 to 80 years (32 percent). One in eight older adults (13 percent) said the inability to get a timely primary care or specialty care appointment led them to the emergency department — a response that was twice as likely among adults from households with annual incomes less than $30,000. Another reason cited for going to the emergency department included the inability to care for themselves at home (13 percent). Two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) said they would first ask their health care provider or office staff before going to the emergency department. More than two-thirds of respondents said their condition (68 percent) and treatment (69 percent) were explained well in the emergency department. However, the vast majority of respondents (80 percent) were concerned about the costs of an emergency department visit, with 7 percent saying they did not go when they thought they needed to because of cost concerns.

“Health insurers and policymakers are increasingly shifting costs to patients to deter over-use of care, including the emergency department, but these policies may be putting our most vulnerable patients at risk of avoiding care even when they have urgent concerns,” a coauthor said in a statement.

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