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Transfer Centers Spell Relief for Rural Docs

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, January 3, 2013

It may sound like a bus or train depot, but for America's beleaguered emergency departments, the "transfer center" is becoming more popular as potential relief to physicians and health facilities. And it's a just-in-time concept, since finding an Rx for overcrowded EDs is one of the top hospital issues for the upcoming year.

In many cases, physicians in rural areas are using transfer facilities to ensure adequate care for patients who may have otherwise gone to an ED at a hospital that may not have, for instance, adequate ED, neuro, cardio, or orthopedic services to treat severe cuts or head injuries. 

So instead of waiting for a long time and clogging up the EDs, patients are diverted to other facilities and where they can readily be treated.

Transfer centers—which are seen as a time- and resource- saver for EDs—may make a dent in patient waiting times, too. The centers channel patients from primary care offices, or clinics and community hospitals, to acute-care settings. In some cases, by calling their physicians, patients bypass the ED altogether and are sent for specialized care by contacting the transfer centers.

Throughout the country, among the greatest challenges in the ED is improving patient flow, as reflected in a HealthLeaders Media Intelligence Report last year. Top healthcare executives said they worried about worsening ED revenue margins and increasing volumes of uninsured patients for the upcoming year.

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