Hospital ER routes patients to clinics

Memorial Hospital Jacksonville is one of 15 Florida-based HCA hospitals that's kicked off a program to re-direct non-emergency patients to nearby clinics instead of treating them in the ER. The new policy will help cut down on ER wait times and also save everyone involved the cost of expensive emergency care. In the first week of the program, 110 were initially thought to be non-emergency patients (Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act [EMTALA], all hospitals must screen ER patients). After being examined by a doctor, 85 were given pamphlets directing them to local profit and non-profit clinics for treatment. The hospital has a few kinks to iron out though, as some of the clinic contact information was incorrect. 

The move might kill two birds with one stone (or more like three or four birds in this case). A recent IOM report warned that ERs are overcrowded and that demand for for emergency department services has increased 26 percent over the past decade. The services are expensive and time-consuming, and the increasingly popular clinics offer a promising alternative. Treating an ear infection at a retail clinic can costs as little as $45, but in the emergency room, the same treatment can cost $425 to $550 and the patient can look forward to a nice long wait while doctors attend to more urgent cases. If HCA can make this program work without violating EMTALA, the hospitals involved could save a significant amount of money. 

- check out this Business Journal of Jacksonville article