Wash. Hospitals Unveil Alternative Plan For ER Visits

Apr 19, 2012

The state has been trying to crack down on ER visits for conditions that are not critical. But health care providers say the state’s policies go too far, they’re unsafe for patients, and will shift costs to hospitals.

Hospitals and emergency room doctors want to address the problem their own way. They’ve put together what they call best practices for reducing unnecessary ER visits. A key component of that is using an electronic health information system.

Dr. Nathan Schlicher is an ER doctor who helped draft the alternative plan. He says the system will help hospitals share patient information, especially those who frequent ER’s to get pain medication.

Schlicher: “It will allow us to know where they’ve been, and to reach out to those facilities that we may otherwise not have known have provided care for them to get additional medical records as necessary.”

The idea is for any hospital to match the patient with the right treatment plan. Healthcare providers hope it’s one way to reduce ER visits. The plan also calls for emergency room doctors to be part of the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program.

By mid-June 75 percent of all hospitals in Washington must complete the requirements listed in the plan. If not, the state will force a bigger change. It will stop paying for ER visits it considers unnecessary.

Copyright 2012 KUOW