Hospitals offer solution to high ER wait times - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Hospitals offer solution to high ER wait times

(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)

An eye-opening report shows dozens of Mid-Southerners making 60 to 80 trips a year to the ER. 

"The doctor's office, he really didn't understand. He just couldn't relate to the type of sickness that it was. And he wasn't, to be honest, they weren't knowledgeable enough of exactly what was going on at the time," Phillip Johnson said. 

Mr. Johnson opened up to Jessica Holley about why he's had to frequently use ER services as opposed to conventional care.

An eye-opening new report shows dozens of Mid-Southerners making 60 to 80 trips a year to the ER.

One Memphis hospital reveals a plan to cut down on patients clogging emergency departments.

There are days pain radiates through 62-year-old Philip Johnson's body. Doctors diagnosed Johnson with Sickle Cell Anemia at the age of 5.

Once a month, machines help ease that pain for Johnson, giving him a red blood cell transfusions.

Before the opening of Regional One Health's Infusion suite in 2015, Johnson would frequent the emergency department as his only option to alleviate the pain.

“The doctor's office, he really didn't understand,” Johnson said. “He just couldn't relate to the type of sickness that it was and he wasn't, to be honest, they weren't knowledgeable enough of exactly what was going on at the time.”

As a teen, Johnson would spend hours in the ER going once or twice a month.

“The easy thing to do if you're feeling bad is pick up the phone and call the ambulance to take you to the nearest emergency department,” said Susan Cooper, Chief Integration Officer at Regional One Health.

Teaming up with the Camden Coalition, Regional One Health is spending the next three years taking a closer look at patients categorized as "high utilizers,” or people like Johnson in his teen years. 

The focus is to determine the real reasons these patients make such frequent visits and to help them find other places they could get care.

“It's not always a good thing when a hospital says we are going to take cost out and take people out, but it's the right thing to do,” Cooper said.

Analyzing Regional One Health patient data has already begun. Cooper said what they've found is shocking.

“They come here because we've heard from their voices we knew you would know what to do,” Cooper said.

In 2015, of the more than 58,080 emergency department patients, excluding traumas, burns, or high-risk pregnancies, more than 1,000 patients were deemed "high utilizers," racking up $81 million in treatment costs.

Two-hundred fifty of those people had an extraordinary number of hospitalizations, with 25 of those patients visiting the emergency department a total of 821 times averaging 60 to 80 visits each.

Regional One estimates it could save more than one million dollars by addressing the true needs of "high utilizers."

Reducing hospital readmission will trim hospital expenses and wait times in the ER, a move Cooper calls a game changer for health systems across the country.

“This is not unique to Regional One Health, you can go to any emergency department any health system in the nation and you find people who seek care at an emergency department for various reasons, not all of them being medical,” Cooper said.

On Thursday at 10 p.m., we investigate what game-changing plan could cut down on the number of patients clogging emergency rooms.

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