Unnecessary ER visits cost $47B a year, report finds

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Unnecessary emergency room visits caused by low health system literacy cost at least $47 billion a year, according to a new report from consulting and IT firm Accenture. 

For the report, Accenture analyzed the total number of annual "excess" visits to ERs by patients with low health system literacy. Accenture defined low health system literacy as those who don't understand the difference between in-network and out-of-network care, how to find in-network physicians, or prior authorizations. 

Accenture found that those with low health system literacy and a chronic condition were twice as likely to have received care at an ER in the last year than those more familiar with the healthcare system. Additionally, generally healthy people with low healthcare system literacy were nearly three times more likely to have visited the ER than those more familiar with the healthcare system.

"The complexity of the healthcare system is driving people to choose the ER for acute care needs that could be addressed in less expensive care settings," the Accenture report reads.

The consulting firm also found that low healthcare system literacy has increased to 61 percent in 2021, up from 52 percent in 2017. 

Access the full report here

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