CHICAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Employers experiencing higher medical costs due to unnecessary emergency room utilization by employees may be able to reduce ER visits by simply better educating employees about their choices. According to a new survey conducted by Evive Health, in conjunction with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 40 percent of employees surveyed had never used or were unfamiliar with urgent care (UC) facilities as an option. In many cases, misperceptions of UC impacted employee choice when choosing between ER or UC treatment. The survey showed that non-UC users were more inclined to believe that UC hours are limited, that locations are not convenient, and that facilities are not appropriately equipped with diagnostic equipment, such as X-ray machines. Thirty-seven percent also believed that ERs provide better quality of care. However, of those who actually had been treated at a UC center, 63 percent said they would go to UC again.
“There is a giant disconnect between perception and reality in urgent care treatment,” said 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 use of ER facilities is rampant in the United States, resulting in increased medical costs, long wait times and decreased availability of medical resources for patients truly in need of emergency care. It is estimated that anywhere from 13.7 to 27.1 percent of all emergency room visits could take place at an alternative treatment site, such as urgent care, with a potential cost savings of approximately $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,” said 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 vs. emergency room care, and provides urgent care locations near them, employee perceptions and behaviors about urgent care can be changed.”
In the Chicago Booth survey of 200 individuals who had visited an ER within the last 30 days but were not admitted to a hospital for treatment, 62 percent of individuals were found to be either “anti-ER,” “open-minded” or “unaware of urgent care,” and thus had a high probability of being educated or influenced by educational materials on the appropriate 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. Socio-economic factors, such as gender, age, education and family situation, as well as health history, can influence ER usage,” added Srivastava. “By understanding these probabilities within a defined employee pool, employers can further refine communications to resonate with each employee subset.”
“Through a combination of studies of consumer habits, attitudes and data from past ER usage within a population, Evive is enabling employers to educate their employees about alternatives such as urgent care, thereby reducing inappropriate ER use and reducing health costs,” said Saravis.
About Evive Health
Founded in 2007, Evive Health is one of the nation’s leading innovators of technology solutions that motivates employees and health plan members to engage in health and wellness activities that improve their health, lowers healthcare costs, and leads to a happier and healthier lifestyle. Evive’s health engagement technologies merge data mining with behavioral economics strategies to increase employee engagement by as much as 19 percent in the first year alone. Evive offers employers and health plans a turnkey, personalized communications solution that works hand-in-hand with existing wellness, prevention and chronic care programs. For more information, visit www.evivehealth.com, or call 312-374-9150.