The looming physician shortage combined with an aging population of Baby Boomers needing more acute care are only a couple of factors contributing to ED overcrowding. Individuals with chronic conditions using the ED for primary care treatment, fewer inpatient beds available and an influx of non-emergent cases are also reasons why many EDs are over capacity.
This overcrowding impacts the patient who receives a lower level of care at a greater cost. It also creates significant financial consequences for the health system as it diverts ambulances, makes patients discharged from the ED wait longer for hospital beds and siphons valuable resources away from truly emergent patients to triage those with non-acute conditions. Throw poor patient satisfaction scores into the mix in response to the long wait times and add a sprinkle of staff frustration and you have a recipe for disaster.
Many of these issues require operational adjustments, but one tactic you can employ immediately to make an impact on overcrowding in the ED is a patient education campaign. Executing this campaign through our Patientology ™ solution has proven to deliver excellent results for many of our clients. The application includes a Tea Select for Emergency – Redirect, an optimized, pre-written query that targets all those who have visited the ED for conditions that would have been better suited for treatment by a primary care physician (PCP) or an urgent care center.
Once you have your targets and have applied your geography in the application, next you need to develop messaging that gives your audience solid direction on what conditions constitute a trip to the PCP or urgent care and what symptoms should send them directly to the ED. Oftentimes, your patients don’t understand there is a difference between emergency and urgent care – or that it is even an option. Consider the parent of a child bleeding from a cut. Panic sets in and they immediately rush to the ED. Once there, they are triaged and wait hours to receive care for their bleeding and crying child while patients with chest pain, stroke symptoms and severe burns bypass them in line. The child likely just needs a few stitches. If they had gone to the urgent care center they would have received more efficient care for a more economical price and saved themselves some frustration.
A patient education campaign goes a long way toward ensuring the highly specialized services that the ED offers are reserved for the truly acute cases. Simultaneously, it reassures your overall patient population that there is a place for them within your health system and makes them aware of the available locations where they can be treated for whatever ailments might befall them.
Several different mediums are available to execute your campaign. Whether you choose direct mail, email or digital display ads to reach your audience, your message should be about where your urgent care facilities are located, what services you offer, and some examples of when to use the ED vs. when to use the urgent care center. Your tactics can be created and sent to recipients right out of the application via our Web2Anything™ campaign engine.
Most importantly, let your audience know how they can receive the most compassionate, high-level, convenient and economical care from your health system based on their particular conditions.