MedStar Turns ‘Self-Preservation’ Into ‘Innovation’

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – If emergency room visits came with reward points, Angela Cormier of Fort Worth would be platinum plus: unable to control her chronic asthma.

“All of the time, a constant, all of the time, it was in and out of the emergency room, says Cormier. “Nobody wants to go the emergency room because they don’t have health care… but, how was I going to be able to breathe?”

But, now, Fort Worth-based MedStar has been working to help the E/R and ambulance ‘super users’ find more economical and effective ways to access healthcare.

“These programs have gone way beyond our expectations,” says Matt Zavadsky, MedStar’s Public Affairs Director. “They are all designed to help prevent an unnecessary 911 call, an unnecessary E/R visit and prevent an unnecessary hospitalization: and it’s done all of that.”

The effort began some three years ago with a MedStar nurse triage system. A nurse screens low priority calls to determine if a $1600 ambulance ride is really needed. Later analysis determined that some 4000 ambulance calls over the period studied, could be traced to just 160 patients.

“For those 160 that we all that data on, we’ve been able to not charge, 4 million dollars in just ambulance charges alone,” says Zavadsky, “and that doesn’t include the charges that are incurred when the patient goes to the emergency room.”

Zavadsky says what was once an experiment motivated by ‘self-preservation’ has become ‘innovation’ that others are looking to replicate. Every ambulance that’s not dispatched to a hiccup call or for a mosquito bite, [ true stories] is one that’s available when a true emergency arises. Although MedStar is not taxpayer supported, Zavadsky says anyone who’s watched health insurance premiums rise over the years has a vested interested in delivering healthcare as cost effectively as possible because ultimately we all pay for the under or uninsured.

“They’ve proven to be successful… they have the data to back it up, so I want to know more so I can bring it to our state. We don’t have this in Tennessee,” says Ranee Curtis with TriStar Health. A team from the Nashville based hospital team visited MedStar’s Fort Worth facility today to learn more about the utilization programs. MedStar has hosted visitors from 40 states and 5 countries looking to replicate the program in their communities.

“It just makes sense to utilize the services that are there,” says Curtis, “knock down the walls across healthcare and work more as a team to serve our communities and serve our patients.”

Still, the biggest endorsement for the program that helps patients learn how to use their medication correctly and manage chronic illnesses is that patients say it works. Cormier said,  “It’s so amazing, what breathing can do for you.”

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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