Employers can slash unnecessary ER costs through education

University of Chicago Medical Center in Chicago (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File) University of Chicago Medical Center in Chicago (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

Employers can reduce higher medial costs due to unnecessary employee ER visits by better educating employees about their options, according to a recent survey conducted by Evive Health and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

The survey reveals that 40 percent of employees had never used or were unfamiliar with urgent care facilities as an option. Non-UC users are more likely to believe that UC hours are limited, locations are inconvenient and facilities are not properly equipped with diagnostic equipment. Another 37 percent believe ERs offer better care. Still, among those who have been treated at a UC center, 63 percent say they would go to UC again.

“There is a giant disconnect between perception and reality in urgent care treatment,” says Peter Saravis, CEO of Evive Health. “Many employees do not realize that cold and flu symptoms, nausea, cuts, sprains, fractures, chronic conditions like diabetes and other non-acute illnesses can and should be treated at urgent care to reduce costs and to leave ERs open for the true health emergencies, such as trauma, heart attacks and stroke.”

Unnecessary trips to ERs is raising medical costs, lengthening wait times and lessening the availability of medical resources for patients who are in true need of emergency care.

An approximate 13.7 to 27.1 percent of all ER visits could be taken care of at alternative treatment sites, such as UC, which could save nearly $4.4 billion annually, according to an October 2010 study published in Health Affairs.

“Employee education is a key factor in helping consumers make less costly and more practical choices in urgent situations,” says Evive Health COO Prashant Srivastava. “Through personalized messaging that not only helps employees understand when to use urgent care but explains the insurance coverage and costs of urgent care versus emergency room care and provides urgent care locations near them, employee perceptions and behaviors about urgent care can be changed.”

The study finds that 62 percent of people are “anti-ER,” “open-minded” or “unaware of urgent care.” This means educational materials have a high likelihood of influencing them on the proper use of a UC versus ER.

“Additionally, analyzing historical claims data can help employers better understand which types of employees are more inclined to utilize the ER and their top reasons for visiting the ER,” Srivastava says. “Socio-economic factors, such as gender, age, education and family situation, as well as health history, can influence ER usage. By understanding these probabilities within a defined employee pool, employers can further refine communications to resonate with each employee subset.”



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