Hospital addresses needs of frequent ER visitors with new system

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - It's been six months since one Memphis hospital revealed plans to cut down on patients clogging emergency departments.

Over the past several months, Regional One Health has combed through patients' data trying to understand why patients known as high-utilizers are coming to the ER dozens of times a year.

They found many social issues drive patients there for help.

Regional One Health estimates it could save more than $1 million by addressing the true needs of "high utilizers," patients who consistently turn to emergency rooms for care, sometimes making 60 to 80 trips a year.

Now, working with the Camden Coalition, the hospital's focus is to determine the real reasons these patients make such frequent visits and help them find other places for care.

A deeper dive into analyzing Regional One Health patient data over the last 18 months revealed the top 25 super-utilizers, averaging 85 emergency room visits, cost the hospital $1.5-$1.8 million.

"Digging into the charts we find things like homelessness, mental health, addiction, poverty, job loss as drivers of these health-seeking behaviors," said Susan Cooper, Chief Integration Officer at Regional One Health.

To help address those needs, Regional One launched its newest tool this month, One Health Connect.

The site directs patients to free and low-cost services within their zip code, shaping the way patients with complex needs will be treated.

"This is not about the underserved, it's about everyone's care getting better," said Camden Coalition founder Jeffery Brenner.

The hospital will also work with 25 patients to figure out the motivators driving them to the ER and begin home visits.

"We believe this ...will help us address the whole person as opposed to just the disease," Cooper said.

With the changes to the ACA coming, Brenner said he could see it negatively impacting the work he's doing, pushing people back to the ER.

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