5 Ways to Reduce ED Costs Without Limiting Access

A recent study in Annals of Emergency Medicine found that reducing nonurgent visits to emergency departments may not produce cost savings for hospitals, and instead, hospitals should focus on reducing admissions and improving ED efficiency to cut costs while keeping access open for all patients.

Here are five recommendations from the study's authors on how to reduce those ED costs more specifically.

1. Establish new urgent care centers. Urgent care centers can treat more patients with intermediate/complex conditions, such as congestive heart failure and other chronic disease complications, which are the source of up to 80 percent of hospital admissions.

2. Add after-hours or weekend primary care availability. Primary care is a foundation of healthcare reform, and expanding primary care availability could help those with chronic conditions while still keeping the ED as a fallback option.

3. Expand the use of ED observation units for defined diagnoses. The first two recommendations focus on measures outside of the ED. At the level of the ED visit, hospitals can expand observation units for patients with expected short-term stays, or other parameters as defined by an ED staff.

4. Improve collaboration between the ED care team and the primary care team. Cost savings is not the primary result of improved collaboration of ED staff and primary care physicians — it just happens to be a positive one, though.

5. Invest in robust health information technology systems. Health IT systems in the ED are "vital to improving care coordination through facilitating communication and providing greater information by which emergency physicians can make crucial decisions about testing and disposition of complex patients," according to the study.

More Articles on Hospital Emergency Departments:

Patient Navigators Could Enhance ED Resource Utilization

Wadley Regional Medical Center in Texas Partners With CEP America

Study: Reducing "Inappropriate" ED Visits May Not Save Money

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