Unity Health Care's Convenient Care Initiative: Keeping D.C. Residents Out of the Emergency Room
Dr. Janelle Goetcheus, Founder, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President of Medical Affairs of Unity Health Care | 8/7/2013, noon
How Does Unity’s Convenient Care Initiative Decrease Emergency Room Visits?
As indicated in the previous information, many D.C. residents are visiting local emergency rooms for health care concerns that are treatable, preventable and/or avoidable. In a proactive and collaborative approach toward reversing this trend, Unity has established an Emergency Room Diversion team at its community health centers. This team consists of a program coordinator, RNs, social workers and community health workers who provide education and outreach to individuals identified as high emergency room users (3 or more visits in less than 6 months). Through telephone and door-to-door outreach efforts, the Emergency Room Diversion team educates patients on the appropriate use of emergency departments, reconnects them to their primary care provider, schedules appointments and provides referrals for social services. This conversation also provides Unity staff with the opportunity to educate patients regarding alternative options for care across Unity’s vast network of health care sites including our Upper Cardozo and Minnesota Avenue Health Centers which have “convenient care” hours and provide primary care services seven days a week. Through Unity’s Convenient Care initiative our patients can also get the advice of a registered nurse by calling the nurse telephone hotline (202-715-7999) to discuss primary care sensitive but non-emergency medical-issues.
Is Unity’s Convenient Care Initiative Working?
Here in the District, and across our nation, we face the ever-increasing problem of addressing the increasing cost of health care. District hospitals alone have seen an increase in emergency room visits of more than 64,000 (16.5 %) over the last five years. In addition, emergency room visits in D.C. are nearly double the national average. With the emergency room being the most expensive place to receive health care it is imperative that we find innovative measures to reduce costs while providing viable alternatives that make quality health care accessible to the members of our community. We have seen that Unity’s Convenient Care initiative is that alternative. Thanks to advanced technology and the implementation of electronic medical records, we are able to see outcomes and data associated with this initiative. During the period of July 2012 to June 2013, more than 15,600 patients have visited our sites during convenient care hours. More than 2,400 patients have received education and outreach from the Emergency Room Diversion team. Nationally, it is estimated that emergency room visit costs ranges from $1,600 to $30,000 per person, therefore, a decrease in utilization for just one frequent user could result in cost savings over $150,000 per year. It becomes more and more apparent, through these statistics, that Unity’s Convenient Care Initiative is not only good for our patients, but good for business.
Unity’s Convenient Care Initiative is a partnership with CareFirst BlueCross Blue Shield that moves forward our mission: “Promoting healthier communities through compassion and comprehensive health and human services, regardless of ability to pay.” It is with this mission in mind that we at Unity Health Care are compelled to work diligently to seek proactive solutions that provide our patients with quality and compassionate care that supports their overall health and well-being and keeps them out of the emergency room.