Going Extra Mile Helps ER Frequent Flyers Where They Live

Monday, March 9th, 2009
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

Philadelphia hospitals are reducing utilization and costs attributed to ER “frequent flyers,” according to Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine:

These troubled people, struggling with chronic illness – and often with homelessness and addiction – routinely appeared at Camden hospitals, racking up huge bills and straining already crowded emergency rooms.

One person was seen at a local ER 324 times over five years. Another sought emergency care 115 times in a single year. Yet another racked up $3.5 million in hospital bills, paid by Medicaid and Medicare, from 2002 to 2007.

Then last year a pilot program employing a nurse practitioner, a social worker, and a community health worker began closely following these top users – even tracking them down in homeless shelters to help find them places to live. The team made sure patients checked their blood sugar, if necessary, and took their medications.

Early data show promising results: a significant reduction in ER visits, and huge savings. The effort could become a model for other cities.

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