This report describes ambulatory care visits to hospital outpatient departments (OPDs) in the United States. Statistics are presented on selected hospital, clinic, patient, and visit characteristics. The report highlights new items on continuity of care of OPD visits, including: whether the visit was the first or a followup for a problem, number of visits to the clinic during the past 12 months for established patients, and whether other physicians shared care for the patient's problem. The report also highlights variation in utilization across the major types of OPD clinics surveyed.
The data presented in this report were collected from the 2001 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS). NHAMCS is part of the ambulatory care component of the National Health Care Survey that measures health care utilization across various types of providers. NHAMCS is a national probability sample survey of visits to emergency and outpatient departments of non-Federal, short-stay, and general hospitals in the United States. Sample data are weighted to produce annual national estimates.
During 2001, about 83.7 million visits were made to hospital OPDs in the United States. The 2001 rate (29.9 per 100 persons) represents a 33 percent increase since 1992. Females had higher OPD visit rates than males (35.2 versus 24.3 visits per 100 persons) and black or African-American persons had higher OPD visit rates than white persons (48.8 versus 27.9 visits per 100 persons). The majority of visits to hospital OPDs were made by patients with previous visits to the clinic (84.2 percent); 70.0 percent had visited the clinic one or more times during the past 12 months. Preventive care visits comprised 15.5 percent of all OPD visits; nearly three out of four preventive care visits were made by females (72.8 percent). Diagnostic and screening services were ordered or provided at 85.0 percent of visits, therapeutic and preventive services were ordered or provided at 45.6 percent of visits, and medications were prescribed at 64.6 percent of visits. Most patients were given an appointment to return to the clinic (60.1 percent).