How to Deliver High-Value Emergency Care That Helps Reduce Costs, Improve Outcomes, and Enhance the Patient Experience

The push to improve quality and lower the cost of healthcare has been ongoing for years. One area showing promise is the emergency department (ED). According to a recent cross-sectional study of more than 14 million ED visits that included discharge, the total 30-day costs of ED care for Medicare patients have actually decreased while overall healthcare spending increased.[1] The study suggests high-quality, patient-centered care provided by emergency physicians was at the heart of these cost improvements. 

It stands to reason that when patients receive optimal care in the ED, it can reduce admissions, readmissions, and repeat ED visits. The study suggests that “greater spending on ED care may be associated with lower total costs to Medicare.” Yet not all hospitals have access to high-quality emergency medicine physicians to provide an optimal level of care, especially in rural hospitals. In fact, just 8% of emergency medicine physicians in the U.S. practice in rural communities, and the number is declining.[2]

Many forward-thinking hospitals—both urban and rural—are turning to ED management partners in an effort to mitigate costs and increase quality of care. Following are six benefits of doing so.

Access to a broader pool of high-quality physicians. Clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction are closely aligned with the quality of the clinician providing care. One of the greatest benefits of ED management partners is their ability to recruit and retain the most qualified emergency medicine physicians. These physicians are trained specifically for acute situations; they know how to quickly assess the patient and immediately start treatment[TM1] . The best partners focus on using local physicians when they can. They also have the ability to place best-fit physicians in areas lacking local talent. These physicians have the expertise and experience necessary to deliver value from the moment they walk in the door.

[CALLOUT] Emergency care environments require physicians who are specially trained to  utilize multiple diagnostic processes at the same time, unlike outpatient environments where care is provided in a linear fashion—one step at a time.  

Improved throughput and process flow management. ED volumes are difficult to predict in normal times, let alone during a pandemic such as we’ve experienced over the past year and a half. Partnering with an ED management company enables hospitals to quickly scale to meet fluctuating demand. The best partners are those that leverage technology to help manage throughput and enhance collaboration between ED physicians and hospitalists. Digital tools provide a real-time glance at all patients in the ED. This enables hospitalists to help assess patients and begin the admission process when appropriate. This can reduce backlogs and wait times while improving continuity of care and the patient experience.

Exceptional managerial expertise. High variability in demand makes managing ED operations difficult. Yet so much rides on the ability to do so effectively, including care quality, patient satisfaction, clinician satisfaction, cost of care, and revenue. ED management partners can provide a level of operational expertise that many hospitals simply do not have, especially rural hospitals. This is because ED partners have access to an entire team of experts with combined experience that collectively elevates their value. These teams have broad knowledge of best practices and federal, state, and local regulations. They also have expertise in managing EDs of all sizes and volumes. 

More collaboration between physicians and administration. Because of their level of expertise, ED management partners understand the importance of the physician-administration relationship. The best companies are those that are led by physicians, giving them a broader perspective and greater insight into the nuances of these relationships and the importance of transparency. They have acquired the skills needed to ensure open, ongoing communication, which can help reduce friction and enable faster, more effective decision-making. 

Access to real-time financial proforma data. Analyzing ED performance is challenging, but it’s critical for ensuring lean operations and long-term financial viability. ED management partners work with hospital administrators to establish quality goals and KPIs. They have the technology and expertise necessary to track, trend, and analyze performance to support quality initiatives and ongoing process improvement. Hospital administrators have access to real-time data necessary to inform more effective decision-making.

Ability to provide post-acute remote patient monitoring. The care experience doesn’t end when a patient leaves the ED. According to a study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, nearly 20% of patients experience an adverse event within three weeks of being discharged, 75% of which are preventable.[3] The problem is that many patients don’t remember or follow through with post-discharge instructions to follow up with their primary care physician or specialists. Medication adherence is also problematic in adverse events.[4] The best ED management partners have access to a highly qualified team of clinicians and telehealth capabilities with which to remotely monitor patients within days of discharge. This can help improve medication and care plan adherence and can also allow for quick intervention to mitigate complications and readmissions.

A new approach

Effectively managing ED operations is critical for hospitals struggling to reach their population health goals of reducing costs, improving outcomes, and providing an optimal patient experience. Partnering with an ED management company can help hospitals reach their goals faster and with less effort, bringing high quality care to their patients and high value expertise to their ED operations.  

[1] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2769103

[2] https://www.annemergmed.com/article/S0196-0644(20)30501-1/fulltext

[3] https://psnet.ahrq.gov/primer/readmissions-and-adverse-events-after-discharge

[4] https://psnet.ahrq.gov/primer/readmissions-and-adverse-events-after-discharge

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