ORLANDO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A six-month educational campaign using Google Maps helped reduce non-emergency visits to emergency rooms by about 17 percent for employees of two large Connecticut employers compared to those who were not targeted for the ER intervention, according to an analysis by HealthCore, a health outcomes research company. The analysis indicated more than double return on investment.
HealthCore’s Winnie Li, M.S., will present the analysis in a poster session at 6:45 p.m. June 25 at the Academy Health Annual Research meeting in Orlando, Fla. The results reflect the first six months of a year-long study conducted in 2012 at the request of HealthCore’s parent company, WellPoint, Inc.
“We have measured similar results in another program in Virginia where consumers’ ER copays were increased to encourage appropriate use,” said Li. “The Connecticut program only used education to encourage members to use walk-in clinics or retail health clinics and we still saw consumers using the ER less for non-emergent conditions, such as ear infections, that can be treated by walk-in centers or retail health clinics. It speaks to the power of education in changing behaviors.”
Nationwide, about 17 percent of all visits to hospital emergency departments nationally were for non-emergent conditions that could potentially be treated at retail health clinics or urgent care centers for an estimated savings of $4.4 billion, according to a RAND Corp. study published in the September 2010 edition of Health Affairs.
The HealthCore analysis focused on about 32,000 consumers in a WellPoint affiliated health plan in Connecticut with health benefits from employers that fund their own plans. The education campaign incorporates Google Maps to make it easier to find and use walk-in centers and retail health clinics for non-emergency conditions, such as sinusitis, ear infections and bronchitis, when regular physicians are not available.
“These results also demonstrate how important it is to make it easy for consumers to access health care in a way that is clinically appropriate and convenient,” said Joshua Riff, WellPoint vice president for clinical retail strategy and also a practicing ER physician. “Walk-in clinics and retail health clinics often have expanded hours with no appointments required that help consumers avoid the ER for non-emergent conditions.”
The ER program’s online tools were developed to be easy to use and help consumers find where the closest participating ER alternatives are located in their states. The webpage also provides information on when it’s appropriate to use these alternatives and reinforces when it’s appropriate to go to the emergency room.
Hospitals that contract with WellPoint’s affiliated health plan in Connecticut generally charge an average $610 to treat strep throat in the emergency room compared with $38 at retail health clinics and $78 at walk-in clinics, according to an internal WellPoint analysis that is non-inclusive of member copay. Consumers can save out-of-pocket expenses because ER copays typically range from $75 to $100, compared with the typical $20 to $30 for walk-in centers and retail health clinics.
About HealthCore Inc.
HealthCore, based in Wilmington, Del., is the clinical outcomes research subsidiary of WellPoint, Inc. HealthCore has a team of highly experienced researchers including physicians, biostatisticians, pharmacists, epidemiologists, health economists and other scientists who study the “real world” safety and effectiveness of drugs, medical devices and care management interventions. HealthCore offers insight on how to best use this data and communicates these findings to health care decision-makers to support evidence-based medicine, product development decisions, safety monitoring, coverage decisions, process improvement and overall cost-effective health care. For more information, go to www.healthcore.com.