Avoidable Hospitalizations

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Avoidable hospitalizations are an indicator of inadequate primary care or poor access to appropriate medical care. Avoidable hospitalization may occur for a number of reasons; among the most common are: lack of health insurance coverage, no means of transportation, and language barriers. In 2004, there were 16,152 avoidable hospitalizations among King County residents, which accounts for 14% of all non-childbirth hospitalizations. South King County had the highest age-adjusted rate of avoidable hospitalization of any of the regions of the county. The rates in Seatac, Tukwila, and White Center are all significantly higher than the county rate.

More than half of the avoidable hospitalizations were caused by bacterial pneumonia, congestive heart failure (CHF), and kidney/urinary infection. They accounted for 23%, 20%, and 10% of all avoidable hospitalizations, respectively. Available vaccines for bacterial pneumonia could prevent about half the hospitalizations for this condition. For CHF, poverty is the biggest predictor of hospitalization. The risk of hospitalization for CHF increases as neighborhood poverty grows.