Senior ED Program is a Winner By Almost Every Measure

Philip Betbeze, November 15, 2013

To patients, the benefits of implementing a senior emergency department program like the one at Summa Health System are unquestionable. To CEOs whose hospitals or health systems are struggling for revenue, there may be hesitation.

Hospital and health system leaders are always on the lookout for ways to improve quality of care, patient satisfaction, and ED utilization. By those measures, the senior emergency department program being piloted at Akron's Summa Health System is an unqualified success.

But viewed through a financial lens, the cost benefits can be a mitigating factor—at least as long as fee-for-service healthcare maintains its strong hold on revenues and profitability.

That means the benefits from such a program can vary, depending on the business model of the hospital or health system that's using it. The fact that a senior ED program can reduce admissions can be a tough hurdle to clear for many top executives whose hospitals or health systems are struggling for revenue.

At Summa, which has its own health plan, the economic benefits can accrue to the health system as a whole even if they initially hurt revenues on the hospital side of the business. That's because the program has demonstrated that it can reduce hospital admissions. The decision to invest in a senior ED program must be studied carefully to make sure that hospitals aren't cutting their own financial throats by implementing them.

Philip Betbeze

Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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