Hospitals working to avoid non-emergency ED care

As we've noted previously, hospitals are under more intense pressure than ever to avoid bad debt. One strategy, of course, is to collect vigorously after the bill has been incurred. Another, meanwhile, is to help see to it that patients who don't need costly care don't receive it. That's why, in part, that a growing number of hospitals have begun working harder to redirect non-urgent care patients away from costly ED care and over to outpatient clinics.

With primary care access getting spottier--and more and more privately-insured patient showing up in the ED--the ED patient flow burden has only increased of late. Meanwhile, low-income, uninsured, under insured and Medicaid patients continue to head for the ED in growing numbers. According to one study, total emergency visits classified as non-urgent conditions increased from 10 percent 1997 to 14 percent in 2006, according to research by the Center or Studying Health System Change.

To address these issues, hospitals are adopting several strategies targeting non-urgent patients coming to the ED. For example, some have shifted nurse practitioners to screen patients, and to set appointments with outpatient caregivers for those who need it. When patients with non-urgent issues return repeatedly, such nurses can help the ED create care plans that set the patient up with medical homes. In some cases, this can change ED patient inflow dramatically; one Miami ED, for example, referred an average of 50 patients a day to clinics over 18 months, according to the report.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this insideARM article

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