10 Things to Know About Reducing Avoidable ER Visits in 2014

Thursday, September 18th, 2014
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

Despite expanded coverage available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the hospital emergency room (ER) remains a refuge for those unable to visit their primary care physician (PCP)— whether due to lack of access, insurance, or time, according to results from the latest Reducing Avoidable ER Visits Survey by the Healthcare Intelligence Network (HIN).

But more than half of respondents (65 percent) are confident CMS’s easing of telemedicine regulations (e.g. mandates for physician on-site hours) will help to reduce avoidable ER visits.

In the three years since HIN last administered this survey, health organizations have stepped up ER discharge follow-up efforts. Almost one-third of respondents (31 percent) in 2014 say they contact patients within 24 hours of their ER visit, versus 22 percent of respondents in 2011 who made provider appointments before discharge, and 18 percent who conducted phone follow-ups within two days of a visit.

Here are more metrics derived from the 2014 Reducing Avoidable ER Visits Survey:

  • Staffing solutions to reduce avoidable ER visits have changed: case managers, social workers and disease-specific care coordinators are increasingly utilized in the ED, replacing health educators, coaches, and nurse-only advice lines used in 2011.
  • The challenge of redirecting non-emergent patients, while still a primary barrier, decreased in priority from 29 percent in 2011 to 18 percent in 2014.
  • Insufficient care access remains a challenge, growing from 16 to 21 percent in 2014, along with PCP collaboration, which was still among the top three challenges, but decreased from 24 percent in 2011 to 18 percent in 2014.
  • The prevalence of programs to reduce avoidable ED usage remained relatively stable from 2011 to 2014, with nearly three quarters of respondents reporting such initiatives.
  • Among populations reported to generate the majority of avoidable ED visits, ER use by dual eligibles increased five-fold in the last four years, from 2 to 11 percent, while other populations — high utilizers, Medicare and Medicaid — remained roughly the same.
  • Chronic disease replaced pain management as the most frequently presented problem, at 54 percent.
  • Education and risk-based telephonic outreach are the top two patient-centered strategies used to reduce avoidable ER visits in 2014.
  • Behavioral health issues and privacy are considered two top legal and compliance obstacles in reducing avoidable ER visits, respondents say.

Source: 2014 Healthcare Benchmarks: Reducing Avoidable ER Visits

Stratifying High-Risk Patients


2014 Healthcare Benchmarks: Reducing Avoidable ER Visits
delivers actionable metrics from 125 healthcare organizations on their efforts to foster appropriate use of hospital ER departments. Enhanced with more than 50 easy-to-follow graphs and tables, this third edition of comprehensive data points presents year-over-year trends and best practices for engaging ER and hospital staff, primary care physicians, community providers and patients in reducing avoidable ED utilization.

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