Patients increasingly use the emergency department (ED) for routine care, and while many hospitals try to reduce such use, some providers adapt their EDs to non-emergency uses, according to National Public Radio.
Nearly half of recent ED patients went for non-urgent care, many of whom have insurance coverage, according to the article. Rather than simply focusing on their efforts to keep non-emergency patients out of the ED, healthcare providers should also understand that many patients visit the ED because traditional providers are too far away or not open, Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told NPR.
"I'm hoping we'll change a bit of the discussion," Blendon said. "You have to have a place to go, and the hours have to reflect the life of people."
Many hospitals, recognizing the ED's importance to hospital revenues, have made changes such as allowing patients to schedule appointments or working to attract specific patient sub-populations such as parents. Not only does this draw patients to emergency services, it can also benefit hospitals' patient satisfaction scores, themselves a driver of payments, according to the article.
Patients and their family members respond well to efforts to meet their needs. For example, when Delilah Toroes took her son, who has Down's syndrom, to the ED at Orlando, Florida's Nemours Children's Hospital, staff were able to take him to a room featuring soothing music and toys to keep him from becoming agitated. Hospitals have made similar efforts to ease autistic patients' stress, FierceHealthcare previously reported.
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