Practical Ways Physician Practices can answer the ER problem
There are a plethora of recent surveys out right now that are reporting on ER visits. ER's are crowded with patients who claim they have no other option, their provider sent them, or their normal physician practice was closed. According to a recent Harris poll, 66% of those believed they needed ER services because their conditions needed the expertise and access to quick testing ERs normally provide.
This morning on NPR, I heard of a hospital in Colorado who was adding a 40 bed mental health unit because their ER was packed with people needing mental health services and there was no place to put them; consequently the ED turn-around times were suffering.
Hospitals are having to get really creative to ensure their ERs have the reputation they want to have in the community and still serve the community with specialists to treat life-threatening conditions.
But is the answer only that the hospitals need to address this growing problem? Are there options for practices that may reduce the over-crowding in ERs and swerve their patient population better?
After-hours clinics are certainly one option, as are practices opening up urgent care centers at their facilities. Attention to the needs of patients and helping to solve those needs should be the goal of every practice. But how does a practice serve those needs and give the care needed without access to needed diagnostic testing?
More and more practices are reaching out to labs and radiology departments to serve their office practice needs. Partnerships with testing facilities or joint-venturing with diagnostic facilities may be a good way of getting the needed service and receiving a turn-around time needed to truly treat the patient.
More and more providers are buying radiology equipment and simple lab units to better serve their patients; not to mention the additional revenue these purchases may bring to the practice.
There are ways to increase the outreach of your practice to better serve you community, but (and isn't there always a but), make sure the plans you have are viable ones, that they meet the regulatory mandates and can be staffed by qualified employees ready to serve the community. Do not over-look the billing requirements as well. It does no good to purchase a x-ray machine if your staff does not know how to properly bill for it.