TUESDAY, Sept. 11, 2018 (HealthDay News) — From 2008 through 2015, there was a substantial shift in venue in which acute care for low-acuity conditions was sought, according to a study published online Sept. 4 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Sabrina J. Poon, M.D., from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues used deidentified health plan claims data from the insurer Aetna (2008 through 2015) to assess trends in visits to acute care venues for the treatment of low-acuity conditions.

The researchers found that there were 20.6 million acute care visits for treatment of low-acuity conditions over the study period. Over the eight years, visits to the emergency department for low-acuity conditions decreased by 36 percent, while use of non-emergency department venues increased by 140 percent. For all non-emergency department venues there was an increase in visits: urgent care centers (119 percent), retail clinics (214 percent), and telemedicine (from zero visits in 2008 to six visits per 1,000 members in 2015). Utilization per person per year increased 31 percent for low-acuity conditions over the eight years. There was an increase in spending per person per year for low-acuity conditions (14 percent over the study period), driven primarily by a 79 percent increase in price per emergency department visit (from $914 per visit in 2008 to $1,637 per visit in 2015).

“Between 2008 and 2015, there were substantial shifts at which venue Americans received acute care for low-acuity conditions,” the authors write.

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