To most Coloradans, this question may appear pointless. Of course, you’re probably saying, I visited one a few weeks ago after a minor climbing accident. Colorado has several dozen hospitals, and most have some form of an emergency department. Frequently, however, Coloradans are foregoing emergency room visits in order to mitigate frighteningly high costs and unaccommodating wait times.


The Colorado Hospital Association recently released its 2017 data regarding hospital visits throughout the state. This report provides valuable information for tracking the healthcare trends and behaviors of Colorado residents. In presenting the relevant figures regarding licensed beds, total discharges, total patient days, inpatient surgeries, births, inpatient admissions from the emergency department, emergency department visits, and total outpatient visits, we can begin to better understand the ways in which Coloradans use healthcare.


What Sort of Numbers are We Talking About?

According to this data, around 1.8 million Colorado residents visited an emergency room in 2017. This number may seem appropriate, but it is strikingly small when compared to the total number of outpatient visits—nearly 10 million. To gain perspective, Colorado had 5.607 million residents in 2017. Additionally, Coloradans are more likely to need emergency rooms than residents of other state, according to a Colorado Health Access survey. With so few ER visits and so many outpatient visits, we are beginning to see a trend: fewer people are visiting emergency rooms.


Though proving causality from numbers alone is nearly impossible, we suspect there are several causal factors at play. The first is that residents and families are seeking less expensive and more accessible acute care services. They’re not the answer for true life-threatening emergencies, but urgent care is picking up the slack in a big way. For example, this urgent care clinic in Aurora has become an indispensable community health resource. The second is that disparities in health care access prevent the most vulnerable and marginalized groups from seeing emergency care as a viable option. We want to push for cohesive, qualitative data in order to better understand what these trends and numbers say about our healthcare system.


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