Hospitals engage patients to reduce non-emergency ED use

A new program piloted by a Baltimore hospital and a Maryland healthcare non-profit aims to reduce emergency department (ED) use among patients with non-urgent or chronic conditions, according to Sinai Hospital.

The Access Health Program, piloted by Sinai Hospital and HealthCare Access Maryland, stations coordinators inside the hospital's ED to identify and target potential participants, such as those who have visited four or more times for primary or specialty care during a four-month period. Once navigators recruit patients to the program, they provide them with information on community resources for the conditions that keep them returning to the ED.

Navigators personalize a care plan for all participants in the program, giving them up to 90 days to resolve challenges such as lack of transportation, substance abuse and mental illness issues, prescription costs and childcare. The program is funded by a $200,000 first-year grant from the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission, according to the announcement.

Meanwhile, two South Georgia hospitals are making similar efforts to reduce ED use for primary care, according to WALB10 News. Tift Regional Medical Center in Tifton and Cook Medical Center in Adel refer patients who visit the ED with non-emergency conditions to clinics, according to the article.

"No one will be refused treatment but the setting for their care may be in a different location, because we are really designed to see the more emergent, more dramatic cases," Chris Efaw, Tift's vice president of outreach and development, told WALB.

There are widespread concerns that the Affordable Care Act may increase ED use; visits are up since expanded coverage under the law took effect earlier this year, and Massachusetts' 2006 healthcare reform law led to a similar increase, FierceHealthcare previously reported. As the aging population and the physician shortage exacerbate the problem, many hospitals attempt initiatives to redirect patients seeking non-emergency care.

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- here's the article