Hospital-clinic partnership aims to reduce ER overcrowding, costs

In the span of just a few short months, a Nashville hospital has improved access to primary and preventive care for uninsured and impoverished patients and is on its way to reducing emergency care costs, thanks to a unique partnership in which the hospital, Southern Hills Medical Center, hosts the clinic rent-free on its campus.

The clinic, Wallace Road Family Clinic, serves about 16 patients daily, one-third of whom initially sought treatment via the hospital's ED. In exchange for its services, the clinic doesn't have to pay rent on its 2,700 square-foot location, the Nashville Business Journal reports.

The partnership should help Southern Hills save on needless ED costs. Prior to Wallace Road's opening, the nearest clinic was about eight miles away, resulting in thousands of area residents appearing at the hospital's ED for non-urgent care. Patients who use the ED to obtain primary or preventive care account for $18 billion in wasted money each year nationwide, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers.

"One of the things that's always driven me crazy is when you see a resident in a community who is low-income or uninsured resort to the [ED] for a doctor. That's a very expensive way to go to a doctor," Southern Hills CEO Tom Ozburn told the Business Journal.

Wallace Road, which has three full-time staffers and an AmeriCorps volunteer for outreach efforts, receives $150,000 of a $1.3 million grant from CMS aimed at pushing patients of TennCare--Tennessee's Medicare managed care program--toward using clinics for primary and preventive care. The clinic also charges fees on a sliding-scale for patients.

To learn more about this arrangement:
- read this Nashville Business Journal article