Background. A single-site study described differences between homeless and non-homeless patient utilization of the emergency department (ED). No prior study has examined ED use by the homeless on a national level.

Objective.To analyze national ED utilization by homeless patients.

Methods. Data were extracted from the 2005 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. SAS callable SUDAAN was used to produce national estimates.

Results. Of the 115 million visits to national EDs in 2005, 472,922 were made by homeless patients. In comparison with the non-homeless, these patients were more likely to arrive by ambulance and to be uninsured. Both groups had similar admission rates and triage urgency, with a trend toward increased diagnostic testing for homeless patients.

Conclusion. Homeless patients who visited EDs in 2005 were more likely to arrive by ambulance despite similar triage urgency and admission rates compared with the non-homeless, and were less likely to be insured.


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pp. 840-845
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