Innovative Collaboration Aims to Reduce Unnecessary Hospital Admissions

07/13/2017

After being cared for in the Emergency Department, the last thing patients want is to end up back at the hospital to be treated for the same condition. Eastern Maine Medical Center’s Emergency Department is partnering with primary care providers to reduce return trips to the Emergency Department and unnecessary hospital admissions by ensuring timely follow-up care, and a team of research interns is the key to making this collaboration work.
 
Heidi Larson, MD, MBA, EMMC’s Medical Director for Population Health, project leader, hopes this research study will lead to more convenience in scheduling primary care follow-up appointments and, in turn, increase patients’ safety after leaving the hospital. “Consider the patient with congestive heart failure who is treated in the Emergency Department for shortness of breath,” she says. “Securing a follow-up appointment with a primary care provider right away makes it less likely that the patient will end up back in the ED and be admitted to the hospital.”
 
Seven college students with an interest in healthcare or business management have been recruited as research interns to help with coordinating the appointments. Each day, a team member works with patients and families in the Emergency Department to schedule next-day primary care appointments and ensures that details of the patient’s hospital stay, including lab and imaging results, are sent to the outpatient provider. The project targets patients who have an Eastern Maine Medical Center or Penobscot Community Health Center provider, and is continually expanding to include other providers.
 
“I think the best part about being in this position is the ability to help healthcare workers in the Emergency Department, and ultimately the patients,” says Anna Boyle, research intern, who majors in neuroscience and psychology at the University of Rochester, New York. “It’s a good feeling when you’re able to schedule a follow-up appointment and everything works out smoothly.”
 
The project is supported by a $75,000 Harvard Pilgrim Quality Grant. Dr. Larson has set a goal of reducing the readmission rate for ambulatory care sensitive conditions such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pneumonia by one percent, which will save the hospital hundreds of thousands of dollars and, most importantly, improve patient care through enhancements in communication and patient engagement.