Spectrum Health Targets ED Frequent Fliers for Primary Care

John Commins, January 17, 2012

A new program at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, MI is identifying "frequent fliers" at the system's emergency departments and placing those patients with a multi-specialist intervention team.

The program, while only six weeks old, has steered more than 140 patients to the less-expensive coordinated care program and has saved the health system a net total of about $300,000.

"It's going really well—better than we had hoped," says R. Corey Waller, MD, a specialist in addiction and emergency medicine, and director of the Spectrum Health Medical Group Center for Integrative Medicine.

"We are focusing on getting the patients better and not decreasing ED visits, because if you do the one the other will follow," he says.

The program was launched in early December and identified about 950 patients who'd used the emergency rooms at Spectrum's Butterworth and Blodgett hospitals more than 10 times in a year. Those patients accounted for more than 20,000 total visits and up to $50 million in costs annually.

The center randomly contacted about 190 patients, 140 of whom agreed to the coordinated care treatment regimen.

"By the time we get them they are pretty broken and the ones that show up are the ones that want help. What we are seeing right now is going to be a skewed view to the person who is sicker and wants help because they are coming in willfully," Waller says.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.


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