A new study out of the UK examines innovations designed to ease overcrowding of hospital emergency departments and reduce unnecessary emergency admissions.
Among the most promising and effective approaches: categorizing patients and moving them in or out of the ED flow accordingly and proactive coordination with physicians and community health services.
Other successful measures employed by the four UK hospitals in the study, conducted by Great Britain's Plymouth University with help from other academic experts, included:
- Observation wards where patients could stay for several hours without 4-hour target pressure
- Ambulatory units where staff and patients did not have the expectation of overnight admission
- Specialist teams finding care outside hospital for elderly patients
- Hospitals and healthcare systems are trying similar measures and meeting with some success
In an announcement, study co-author Jonathan Pinkley said, "Hospitals and their staff are under immense pressure to ensure that each and every patient receives the best and most appropriate treatment. The emergency department is a particular pressure point and we were impressed by how each of the four hospitals in the study addressed the issue of avoiding admitting patients to the ward where it was unnecessary."
Many of these programs exist stateside, as well. For example, HealthCare Partners Affiliates Medical Group in Torrance, California, launched a house call program for elderly and chronically ill patients in 2009 aimed at reducing unnecessary ER visits. And in Oregon, coordinated care organizations are reducing the number of unnecessary ER visits among elderly and disabled patients by connecting them to resources in the community.