Should ED Wait Time Billboards Go Blank?
Hospitals have been using technologies like these in order to attract new patients as well as improve the patient experience by decreasing wait times in their emergency room, but, since more and more patients are using the emergency room for non-urgent care, it's becoming clear that this tactic is treating the symptom, rather than attack the systemic problem of directing patients to the proper access point.
Though a goal of healthcare reform was to shift people out of ERs and into family practices for preventive care, the expansion of health insurance coverage for the poor under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has resulted in a significant increase in costly emergency room visits, according to a study recently published in the journal Science. The 18-month-long study, which traced 25,000 low-income Oregonians who won Medicaid coverage in a lottery, found a 40% increase of emergency room visits among the newly insured.
The study's researchers found that the correlation between expanded health coverage and increased ED visits was so strong that it held true "across a broad range of types of visits, conditions, and subgroups, including increases in visits for conditions that may be most readily treatable in primary care settings."
While the solution here may seem simple—to educate the newly insured about their best point-of-care options depending on their condition—there's more at play. ER marketing is good for business; common emergency procedures, such as CT scans and MRIs, are very profitable for hospitals.
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