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Spectrum Health Targets ED Frequent Fliers for Primary Care

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, 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.

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4 comments on "Spectrum Health Targets ED Frequent Fliers for Primary Care"


Deb McMaster (8/31/2012 at 8:09 PM)
This shouldn't be considered a one-size fits all approach. Therefore, assumptions should NOT be made about individuals that are taking prescription pain medications.

Ryan Nastaj (2/9/2012 at 1:17 AM)
Those os you who have posted, and there are currently two ahead of me, have not read the whole story behind this movement, This Dr. is a life saver, trust me when i tell you this, becuase i happen to be a patient there at the Integrative Medicine Group, the article left out the following, Dr. Waller is a Pain Medidcine Specialist, and addiction specialist and Emergency Room Doc also. The place doesnt only treat addictted patients to narcotics etc..it serves as a place to start then they transfer you to a regular primary doctor etc..So what the article said was he is an addiction specialist, thats is true but also treats Chronic pain and they do have other staff from network 180 which is a community or a place for the community to go for mental health , addiction stuff etc..when you go in you meet with several different people, from net 180 , dr. waller, a nurse, etc.. and they target your issues form various aspects. So thisis not just a place for addicts...just thought id let you know the truth

Cathy Martin (1/25/2012 at 9:23 AM)
I applaud Spectrum's concept. I think it will provide a very proficient way to ID patient's that will benefit from the program and give a very holistic approach to their care. However, I would caution that a program of 6 weeks is still in a honeymoon phase. I am a very "the glass is half full" person, but I don't belief that in 6 months to a year you will be seeing a sober rate as stated -"More than 90% have stayed clean since they started treatment here," he says. I would be interested in an update on the program's progress at 6 months and one year. I am hoping that Spectrum will share their program as a model for others and have great success with it as well.