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Average outpatient visit in U.S. approaching $500, study finds

Between 1990 and 2016, inpatient admissions globally increased by more than two-thirds, while outpatient visits increased by more than half.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

The average outpatient visit in the United States costs nearly $500, according to a new scientific study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

In addition, the average inpatient stay had a price tag in 2016 of more than $22,000. Both of these dollar amounts underscore a common understanding in the health profession: The US exceeds every other nation in total healthcare costs.

IMPACT

Between 1990 and 2016, inpatient admissions globally increased by more than two-thirds, while outpatient visits increased by more than half.

In countries such as China, Indonesia, Thailand and Turkey, policies that expanded coverage were associated with increased patient visits and admissions, while in certain sub-Saharan African countries, most of the increase resulted from population growth.

The study estimates that universal health coverage, or UHC, for all nations -- one of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 - would cost $576 billion and would require a 49 percent increase in admissions and 27 percent increase in visits.

THE TREND

The findings highlight some of the remaining challenges in determining a UHC standard for utilization, and the costs of receiving it. The cost of healthcare services will likely differ substantially between countries, and any calculation of UHC costs should consider inefficiencies in current healthcare systems, the authors said.

THEIR TAKE

"To achieve UHC, health officials in the government, private and nonprofit sectors need to expand services to accommodate population growth and aging, as well as expand insurance coverage," said Professor Marcia R. Weaver of IHME.

"Not surprisingly, we found both overutilization and underutilization of services among inpatient and outpatient facilities. More importantly, we identified countries like the Netherlands, Portugal, and Thailand that have the right amount of each."

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com

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