Strategies to Reduce Inappropriate ER Visits

by
Clearstep Team

United States emergency rooms see an average of 130 million people each year. 13% - 27% of these ER visits could be better managed at urgent care centers, clinics, and primary care providers. The overuse and inappropriate use of emergency departments is a growing concern because of the limited resources and excessive costs required to manage these inappropriate ER visits.

This article offers some practical strategies to reduce inappropriate ER visits in your hospital, alleviate excessive stress on your ER professionals and ensure space for those truly in need of emergency care.

Create a Patient Education Campaign

One great way to deter unnecessary emergency room visits is to create a patient education campaign that retrains patients to contact their primary care physician first. You’ll need to create a visual media asset that can be posted on or around:

  • Your website and/or social media sites
  • mHealth application
  • ER reception
  • Waiting rooms

You’ll want to have informational pamphlets, flyers, banners, and other media explaining that contacting your primary physician first is the most intelligent, efficient choice. Visual media should be clear, easy to read, and easy to process. Having resources that empower patients to triage themselves to where they should go first will save everyone resources, time, and money.

Utilize Automated Engagement

You’ll want to utilize an automated engagement application to help triage patients who may be seeking emergency care. Many people would appreciate and use an app they could access from their phone or via the hospital website that utilizes artificial intelligence to help them assess whether an ER visit is necessary simply by answering a series of triage questions. 

The app would automatically answer and engage with the patient to identify the best place to get care for their healthcare issue. This automated engagement gets the patient to the appropriate care and reduces unnecessary ER visits, which also helps your ER staff.

Our Smart Care Routing™ solution provides an AI-driven tool to help patients get individualized, clear steps on where to get the best care for their health issues based on clinically-validated machine learning triage questions. Our triage accuracy is greater than 95% when compared to the triage judgment of ER doctors. You can have confidence that our Smart Care Routing™ solution will accurately assess patient needs.

Want to demo the Smart Care Routing Symptom Checker? Click here for a free quick demo of its accuracy and effectiveness.

Related: Patient Engagement in Healthcare: How Can I Improve It?

Promote Telehealth Services as an Alternative

There are several third-party services that offer telehealth services with 24/7 access to physicians. You can either leverage one of these third-party options or offer your own telehealth solution where people can call or video conference from the comfort of their homes, at any time, including after-hours. Expanding telehealth offerings is an effective way to reduce unnecessary ER visits. 

If you decide to offer your own telehealth solution, it will require software and staff to adequately provide the necessary care. Our Smart Care Routing™ solution can handle the triage component, and if integrated, provide direct access for patients to schedule virtual doctor visits, ultimately reducing administrative burdens on your care staff.

You’ll also want to amplify the benefits patients of using these services instead. To help those who by default frequent the ER, offer pamphlets or other handouts to promote telehealth or mHealth options the next time they have an emergency. You may want to have staff dedicated to educating people on these different options when they come to the ER. You could also have tablets in the ER and patients can use the virtual triage application to confirm whether or not they should remain in the ER or seek an alternate care option. It may take several exposures to the information before they choose this option.

Improve Patient Communication with an AI Healthcare Chatbot

Rather than requiring patient consumers to call/walk in and likely be subjected to long wait and handling times in order to get their health-related needs addressed, consider directing them to an AI healthcare chatbot to assess and answer any health-related questions they have before going into the emergency room. Offering an AI chatbot on your website, mHealth app, or your initial assessment process in the ER can quickly direct patients where they need to go to get the care they need. 

AI healthcare chatbots can greatly reduce inappropriate ER visits by giving accurate triage assessments and clear instructions on how to get the best care. Our AI healthcare chatbot asks fewer questions than other competing technologies while maintaining a triage accuracy of higher than 95%.

For people who instinctively visit the ER for any and all concerns, you may need to assign staff to work with these individuals on a one-to-one basis to help them find the value in utilizing the AI chatbot to assess their needs and direct them to the appropriate care. In the long run, they are sure to appreciate the convenience that it provides.

Experience the efficiency and accuracy of our Smart Care Routing technology by requesting a free demo.

Related: 7 Methods to Improve Patient Outcomes

Improve Patient Access to Healthcare

Improving patient access is a critical strategy for reducing unnecessary ER visits. Some of the main reasons that people go to the emergency room are because of:

  • Inadequate access to their primary care provider or lack of a PCP
  • Lack of flexible, after-hours care
  • Logistical barriers such as transportation and cost to access other, better-suited options 

The Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative (TCP) recommends:

  • Providing 24/7 access to the primary care team, like utilizing telehealth, AI chatbots, or after-hours care
  • Offering scheduling options that are more family-centered or patient-centric
  • Identifying and mitigating common barriers to access or social determinants
  • Leveraging and promoting mHealth technology options to extend patient access

By communicating and educating patients about their options for after-hours care and emergency care, it will help people accurately assess and go to the best choice for care, whether it’s the ER, their primary care physician, urgent care clinic, after-hours care, mHealth application, telehealth or self-care.

Final Thoughts

While it is incredibly challenging to reduce inappropriate ER visits, it is possible by adopting some of these strategies. Investing in visual media and AI-enabled applications can help triage and direct patients to the best place to receive care for their health issues. It is critical to utilize several strategies to educate people because it takes several interactions before they change how they view and use emergency services. 

Clearstep’s AI healthcare chatbot can accurately and effectively triage your potential ER patients and direct them to the best care, improving the overall patient experience and reducing unnecessary ER visits. Our Smart Care Routing™ technology seamlessly integrates with your website, EHR and mHealth applications to reduce staff stress and automate common tasks and workflows.

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