Can home healthcare curb ER visits? 5 takeaways

Mary's Center, a community health center in Washington, D.C., is piloting a program to provide primary care through telemedicine for Medicaid patients who struggle to get regular care at clinics, according to a report from NPR.

The pilot program emerged when AmeriHealth, a local Medicaid managed care organization, approached the health center to work on reducing the district's unnecessary emergency room visits. The program has now expanded to Medicaid patients who have Trusted Health Plan, the Washington, D.C. provider of Medicaid and Alliance Benefits.

Here are five takeaways from the report.

1. The Mary's Center telemedicine team focuses on patients who have diabetes, hypertension, asthma or congestive heart failure. The team chose these diagnoses to encourage regular clinician management and improve patients' short- and long-term health outcomes.

2. A certified medical assistant or nurse with experience in direct patient care makes home visits to patients. The home visitors come with screening equipment, diagnostic equipment and a laptop that allows providers to see and talk with patients in real time through a video teleconferencing platform.

3. The home visitor takes patients' vital signs, asks questions about recent health history and notifies the provider electronically when the patient is ready to be "seen." The home visitor's equipment allows providers to examine the patients' breath and heart sounds, ears, nose, throat and skin.

4. Washington, D.C. provides managed care organizations with incentives if they reduce repeat ER visits. The city council is considering legislation to expand reimbursement for home visits.

5. Mary's Center works with local patients who are eligible to visit the clinic to ensure that telemedicine services are provided by physicians who are licensed in the same state as the patient.

More articles on EDs: 
Brigham and Women's reduces ED costs by 15% through care coordination program
Memphis VA launches investigation after veteran's 'health worsened' in ER
VA uses rapid access model to improve ER care

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