Fierce Healthcare recently published a thought provoking article titled “Why Poorer Patients Prefer Hospital Care.” The article discusses a new Health Affairs study that explores why low-income patients prefer hospitals to doctor’s offices and used more hospital care and less primary care then patients of a higher socioeconomic status. The reasons for this preference appear to fall into two categories, convenience and cost.
Poorer patients are likely to think of primary care physicians as being more costly in terms of time and money. Issues cited by lower income patients interviewed include a belief or perception that a visit to a primary care physicians for a diagnostically challenging issue would result in numerous visits to specialists, numerous co-pays caused by these specialist visits and more time off from work. Many of the patients interviewed for the study expressed the idea that they felt like it was a better use of their personal resources to bypass their primary care doctor and head straight for the hospital.
The rub is that is that hospitals have new mandates to decrease admissions and improving hospital care to achieve this has the possible potential to increase hospital use among a poorer demographic that is already vulnerable.
Read the entire Fierce Healthcare article here.
TeamHealth Medical Call Center (THMCC) provides nurse triage and nurse advice line services. A call to the Nurse Advice Line is both convenient and costs little or nothing to the consumer who might have otherwise gone to the ED, making this service a good option for population management. THMCC provides reports that identify members who are at high risk for unnecessary ED utilization. Some of these patients simply want to be heard and to be able to talk through their concerns. Nurse advice line support provides these callers with reassurance and the confidence they need to manage their healthcare and refers the caller back to their physician for appropriate follow up.
Another telephone service, an ED triage line, can be used to free valuable staff and time in the ER. Potential patients calling the ED are routed to the ED Triage line where a nurse can determine their acuity and help them decide if a visit to the ED is necessary.
Vulnerable populations require time and effort and hospitals are being pushed to do more with less. A community nurse line or ED triage line can help ease the burden of hospital and ER visits, while providing valuable information on healthcare needs and a positive patient experience.