Rather than waste energy on outreach to low numbers of ER "frequent flyers" who are unlikely to change behaviors any time soon, several health plans are getting more mileage out of an Institute for Healthcare Advancement (IHA) publication called What to Do When Your Child Is Sick. As detailed in Emergency Exits: Reducing Emergency Room Utilization by Retooling Care-Seeking and Care Access Options, both Neighborhood Health Plan (NHP) of Massachusetts and WellPoint make this publication available to patients and members (sometimes via primary care providers), hoping they'll read this first before taking their child to the ER for treatment of a routine condition.
Dr. James Glauber, NHP's medical director, says the book is one of several self-care resources NHP makes available to members, either at time of enrollment or after a non-emergent ER visit. He also cites the success another health plan has had with this resource:
Molina Healthcare of Michigan undertook a project where they mailed approximately 21,000 copies of What to Do When Your Child is Sick to all members with children under 2 years old. [Molina] conducted pre- and post-surveys with that population and found that 82 percent of the members or families at baseline stated that they did not have any resource guide that they used when their child was sick or injured. The follow-up survey showed that a similar percentage — slightly over 80 percent — reported that they used the book at least once when their child was sick. In addition, they asked parents in the follow-up interviews, “What would you do if your child was sick and couldn’t be seen by their primary care physician (PCP) on the same day?” In the pre-survey group, 24 percent said they would go to the ER. In the post-survey group, only 9.6 percent said that they would go to the ER, with some corresponding increases in respondents saying that they would treat their child at home, make a doctor’s appointment or go to an urgent care center. This provides evidence that by providing appropriate materials to members and families, you can expand their knowledge and improve self-care behavior
For its efforts in saving parents and children trips to the emergency room, Molina Healthcare took top Pinnacle Award honors in the Michigan Association of Health Plans' Clinical Service Improvement and Community Outreach categories.
According to the IHA Web site, What To Do When Your Child Gets Sick is the most popular book in its "What To Do For Health" series. Available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean, it covers the management of more than 50 common childhood illnesses, injuries, and health problems. It is written in easy-to-read language for parents and caregivers of children from birth to 8 years of age, and quantity pricing discounts are available.