St Paul, MN (Minnesota News Network) - Hospital patients in Minnesota get about $2 billion in care each year that they really don't need.

That's according to the Minnesota Health Department, which tried for the first time to quantify the waste, and give hospitals an idea of where to cut. The amount of money represents almost five-percent of the state's annual spending on health care.

Officials estimate that 1.23 million visits to the emergency room could have been prevented in 2012. The same goes for 50,000 initial hospital admissions, and 22,000 cases in which patients were readmitted soon after being sent home.

The report cited mental health disorders as a major cause of ER visits. Preventable care was also more prevalent among low-income and elderly patients on public-subsidized plans.

 Minnesota is the first state in the nation to successfully conduct such an analysis using APCD data and set a baseline estimate for potentially preventable hospital visits.

“Minnesota has one of the most efficient and cost-effective health care systems in the nation but this study shows we still have room for improvement,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “Equipped with these findings, we will work with providers and community leaders to ensure patients more consistently receive the right care, in the right place at the right time.”