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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The direct and indirect costs of non-traumatic dental emergency room visits in British Columbia Ahmad, Syed Habeeb


Objective: To assess the direct and indirect costs of non-traumatic dental visits at the Emergency Rooms (ERs) in British Columbia (BC). Methods: Services from the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s National Ambulatory Care Reporting System (NACRS) were acquired; NACRS contains data including diagnosis and procedures coded with the International Classification of Disease representing the conditions of oral cavity, salivary glands and jaws. Direct cost relates to the billing cost of non-traumatic dental patient seen at the ER as billed to the government. Direct costs from Ontario and Alberta were used to estimate the cost for BC. Indirect cost relates to loss of income in terms of time spent at the ER only. Results: Between years 2012 and 2013, the number of visits for non-traumatic dental conditions at the ERs in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia were 135,570 (1.16% of the total number of ER visits), 69,247 (1.51% of the total number of ER visits) and 22,786 (1% of the total number of ER visits), respectively. Out of 74, the 29 reporting emergency departments in 2013 in BC showed that the majority of the visits for non-traumatic dental conditions (70%) were made by adults between the ages 20 and 64 years-old; the most common complaints were dental and periapical abscesses and dental caries. The majority (70%) of non-traumatic dental patients in BC were non-urgent. On average the patients spent around 2 hours at the ERs at a cost ranging from $185.15 to $245.51 each to British Columbians, up to $2.99 million per year. Conclusion: Although not all emergency departments in BC report data on non-traumatic dental visits, the cost to the tax payers is substantial. It was estimated to be between $185.15 and $245.51, whether using data from either Alberta or Ontario, respectively; the cost sums up to a total of $2.25 to $2.99 million per year for 29 of 74 reporting ERs. Therefore, use of emergency rooms for non-traumatic dental conditions not only adds an extra burden and contributes to overcrowding, but also makes the health care system costly.

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