Objectives: This report presents statistics on ambulatory care visits to physician offices, hospital outpatient departments (OPDs), and hospital emergency departments (EDs) in the United States in 2007. Ambulatory medical care utilization is described in terms of patient, provider, and visit characteristics.
Methods: Data from the 2007 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey were combined to produce annual estimates of ambulatory medical care utilization.
Results: Patients in the United States made an estimated 1.2 billion visits to physician offices and hospital OPDs and EDs, a rate of 405.0 visits per 100 persons annually. This was not significantly different than the rate of 381.9 visits per 100 persons in 2006, neither were significant differences found in overall visit rates by age, sex, or geographic region. Visit distribution by ambulatory care setting differed by poverty level in the patient's ZIP Code of residence, with higher proportions of visits to hospital OPDs and EDs as poverty levels increased. Between 1997 and 2007, the age-adjusted visit rate increased by 11 percent, fueled mainly by a 29 percent increase in the visit rate to medical specialty offices. Nonillness and noninjury conditions, such as general and prenatal exams, accounted for the largest percentage of ambulatory care diagnoses in 2007, about 19 per 100 visits. Seven of 10 ambulatory care visits had at least one medication provided, prescribed, or continued in 2007, for a total of 2.7 billion drugs overall. These were not significantly different than 2006 figures. Analgesics were the most common therapeutic category, accounting for 13.1 drugs per 100 drugs reported, and were most often utilized at primary care and ED visits. The number of viral vaccines that were ordered or provided increased by 79 percent, from 33.2 million occurrences in 2006 to 59.3 million in 2007; significant increases were also noted for anticonvulsants and antiemetics.