Wednesday, April 01, 2009

High Volume Consumers

It's April 1, so I would love to believe that this is a bad April Fool's joke, but I fear that is not the case. Just nine patients (five middle-aged women and five middle-aged men, most with drug and mental issues) accounted for 2,678 visits to Austin, TX emergency .
Just nine people accounted for nearly 2,700 of the emergency room visits in the Austin area during the past six years at a cost of $3 million to taxpayers and others, according to a report. The patients went to hospital emergency rooms 2,678 times from 2003 through 2008, said the report from the nonprofit Integrated Care Collaboration, a group of health care providers who care for low-income and uninsured patients.
Obviously there is an underlying problem here that is not medical - it's social. Would these people abuse the emergency room if they had access to appropriate mental care elsewhere? I don't know, but I know that every visit they make to the ER because they need attention or a warm bed or a drug fix costs every other patient, but you can't turn anyone away at the ER, not until you've ensured that they aren't, in fact, seriously ill.

I'll be interested to see what sorts of suggestions the group has to solve the problem.

No comments: