Timely follow up by the primary care physician after a patient’s visit to the emergency room (ER) may be the key to reducing return ER visits as well as hospitalizations. Ideally, the provider and patient will have an established relationship, enabling the primary care physician to initiate the follow up and possibly even avoid the need for the patient’s initial ER visit. However, even if the patient finds it necessary to be seen at the ER, the follow up with the primary care physician can be a critical point in the long-term outcomes for that patient.
According to a study published by the US National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health), 50% of all hospital admissions are a direct result of patient ER visits. The study investigated the impact of a “rapid-access-to-primary-care program” at New York-Presbyterian / Weill Cornell Medical Center in terms of health outcomes, cost savings, and the provider’s ability to engage ER patients in continued primary care and preventive measures.
Patients who feel the need to visit the ER may not be covered by insurance or may not have an established relationship with a primary care physician. The study found that a rapid-ED-to-primary-care-access protocol “has the potential to save costs over time.” This type of timely follow up by the primary care physician “can also provide a safe and reliable ED discharge option that is also an effective mechanism for engaging patients in primary care.”
Research has established that “regular primary care is associated with a number of health benefits including increased receipt of preventative services and better chronic disease management.” When the patient follows up with a primary care physician promptly after an ER visit, the opportunity also exists for the provider to engage that patient in long-term primary care. Establishing a medical home can be critical for patients with chronic or complex conditions, in particular.
The study found that “a rapid-ED-to primary-care follow-up program can provide a safe and reliable ED discharge option that is also an effective mechanism for engaging patients in primary care. Such primary care engagement has the potential to lead to further containment in overall healthcare costs, as well as to improved patient care and health outcomes.”
A rapid-ED-to-primary-care-access program may allow EPs to avoid admitting patients to the hospital without risking ED revisits or subsequent hospitalizations. This protocol has the potential to save costs over time. A program such as this can also provide a safe and reliable ED discharge option that is also an effective mechanism for engaging patients in primary care.