Paramedic home visits may reduce ER visits, readmission rates

In an effort to reduce emergency room admissions among the uninsured and chronically ill, one Minnesota healthcare provider is having its paramedics make house calls, a move officials believe could result in major savings, NBC News reported.

Emergency room visits are skyrocketing, with some repeat patients coming as often as 23 times a month, with the hospitals bearing the brunt of the cost of care, according to the article.

To combat the issue, North Memorial Health System, which serves the north, central and west communities in the Twin Cities area, has sent community paramedics on more than 1,000 home visits since October 2012, focusing on patients who had visited the ER nine or more times in a year. The program costs the hospitals a fraction of what it would if those patients came to the ER, NBC News reported.

"What's really the biggest cost in health care are the chronic conditions where there are readmissions to the emergency department," North Memorial Chief Medical Officer Kevin Croston, M.D. told NBC News. "We realized we needed to create care that stopped that."

The system has yet to collect specific savings data, but officials interviewed for the article said the community paramedics are helping patients control chronic diseases at home, especially those with diabetes who may have neglected to take their insulin. It also gives healthcare professionals more time with the patients, allowing them to better understand the patients' needs and specific areas of concern, according to the article.

The idea has translated into financial savings for other facilities. House calls for low-income families with asthma helped save Children's Hospital Boston $1.46 million, FierceHealthcare previously reported, with the hospital boasting a 68 percent decrease from baseline in asthma-related emergency department visits and an 85 percent drop in hospitalizations.

North Memorial isn't the only health network using outreach to prevent ER visits. Woodland Hills (Calif.) Medical Center and several other hospitals use 'homeless navigators' to help indigent patients find housing or treatment centers after discharge, reducing the rate of "frequent flyer" hospital stays, which cost an average of $1,500 a night in uncompensated care at the facility, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
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Related articles:
'Homeless navigators' help reduce ER visits, readmissions
'Frequent flyer' visits drop with coordinated care
Home visits for asthma patients cut hospitalizations
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