Hospitals, nonprofits partner to divert nonemergency patients from ER

With nonemergency patients continuing to overload emergency departments (ED), hospitals are teaming up with nonprofit organizations to provide ED alternatives for patients who don't need emergency care.

In Sacramento, California, WellSpace Health is opening more clinics to serve uninsured and newly insured patients, with a focus on preventive care, the Sacramento Bee reported. The hospitals are finding that newly insured patients are using EDs for primary care, the paper reported.

WellSpace Health manages eight health centers, six satellite centers and two residential treatment centers, according to the Bee. Other community health centers are run by Elica Health Centers, Cares Community Health, and Health and Life Organization. The county also provides community healthcare.

Meanwhile, "navigators" at Sutter Medical Center and Dignity Health are helping patients navigate social services as well as the healthcare system--including rerouting some patients to the clinics.

Dignity Health's navigator program partners with Health Net, an insurance provider, and with the nonprofit Sacramento Covered, which employs the navigators. The hospital system partners with 15 community clinics, according to the article. Nearly 60 percent of visits to Dignity's four EDs are for primary care.

Navigators are one of several emerging healthcare fields identified by a recent AMN Healthcare survey. A navigator is usually a licensed clinical professional.

In Oregon, new coordinated care organizations are targeting patients who visit hospital ERs at least 10 times a year as part of a test program intended to reduce Medicaid costs. One hospital in Bend says ED visits by 144 of its "frequent flyers" dropped by nearly half in the first six months of the year.

For more information:
- here's the Bee article