How Tele-Navigation Reduces Admissions, Cuts ED Costs

Gienna Shaw, October 31, 2011

Patient navigation is a growing trend, but Presbyterian Healthcare Services in Albuquerque, NM, is putting its own spin on the service, supplementing in-person consultations with two-way video chat.

And while healthcare organizations are increasingly using patient navigators to shepherd patients through the care continuum, Presbyterian is using it to divert non-emergent patients from the ED, help them find a primary care physician if they do not have one, make primary care appointments for patients, and educate them about ED utilization.

The goal is not only to reduce ED costs—the organization forecasts a savings of as much as $15 million over five years—but to change patient behavior, educating them on when, where, and how to obtain appropriate healthcare services.

Navigation improves access to care and overall quality of care, John D. Johnson, enterprise director of the customer service center at Presbyterian, said during a session at the College of Healthcare Informatics Executives CIO forum in San Antonio last week.

Under the program, patients presenting at the ED get a medical screening by a mid-level provider. Non-emergent patients are referred to the navigator, who helps them with insurance questions and can either refer them to an urgent care center or get them an appointment with a primary care physician within 12-24 hours. Navigators also follow up to ensure the patient has kept the appointment.

Marketing and communications was part of the strategy—in addition to local media efforts, Presbyterian reached out to physicians, leaders, past ED patients, and other healthcare organizations in the region. 

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