COVID-19 driven decline in emergency visits: Has it continued, is it permanent, and what does it mean for emergency physicians?

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Publication Date


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The American journal of emergency medicine


california; plcmmc; covid-19; Humans; United States; COVID-19; Pandemics; Emergency Service, Hospital; Hospitals; Physicians


INTRODUCTION: Hospital-based emergency departments have been a sustained source of overall hospital utilization in the United States. In 2019, an estimated 150 million hospital-based emergency department (ED) visits occurred in the United States, up from 90 million in 1993, 108 million in 2000 and 137 million in 2015. This study analyzes hospital ED visit registration data pre and post to the COVID-19 pandemic describe the impact of on hospital ED utilization and to assess long-term implications of COVID and other factors on the utilization of hospital-based emergency services.

METHODS: We analyze real-time hospital ED visit registration data from a large sample of US hospitals to document changes in ED visits from January 2020 through March 2022 relative to 2019 (pre-COVID baseline) to describe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on EDs and assess long-term implications.

RESULTS: Our data show an initial steep reduction in ED visits during the first half of 2020 (compared to 2019 levels) with rebounding occurring in 2021, but never reaching pre-pandemic levels. Overall, ED visit volumes across the study states declined in each year since 2019: 2020 declined by -18%, 2021 by -10% and the first quarter of 2022 is -12% below 2019 levels.

CONCLUSIONS: There is a wide range of potential long-term implications of the observed reduction in the demand for hospital-based emergency services not only for emergency physicians, but for hospitals, health plans and consumers.


Hospital Medicine


Emergency Medicine


Infectious Diseases