Healthcare News & Insights

Study: EHRs cut state’s Medicaid costs

In addition to the federal government’s EHR incentive program, individual states are also using health IT in their own plans to improve health care. 

Health IT has played a key role in a Washington state plan to reduce emergency room costs for Medicaid patients, according to the Washington Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)

According to the six-month-long study, Washington has lowered its Medicaid fee-for-service emergency care costs by 10%. The ACEP projects the state will save $31 million in the first fiscal year after adopting a new set of best practices.

The program, know as “ER is for Emergencies,” focuses mainly on preventing unnecessary emergency room visits, as well as improving the sharing of information among emergency departments and primary care providers.

In addition to the cost savings, some other results seen in Washington have been:

  1. An increase (from 17 to 85) in the number of hospitals exchanging information electronically
  2. A 23% reduction in the number of Medicaid patients making five or more ER visits over a six-month period, and
  3. A doubled participation rate for plans that help coordinate care.

The seven practices implemented in the state’s program:

  1. Exchange electronic patient information between different providers for patients who frequently visit ERs
  2. Offer information to patients at arrival or  discharge about the appropriate settings for receiving medical care — i.e., when they should and shouldn’t go to the emergency room
  3. Designate staff members and physicians to hand out and receive information on Medicaid clients
  4. Contact primary care providers at the time of an emergency visit to discuss possible barriers to the patients’ use of primary care
  5. Use guidelines to direct appropriate patients to primary care or pain management services
  6. Enroll physicians in Washington’s Prescription Monitoring Program, which helps curb prescription drug abuse, and
  7. Designate hospital staff to review feedback reports and take appropriate action.

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