News Headlines Article

A Hospital Reduces Repeat ER Visits By Providing Social Workers
National Public Radio

A Milwaukee hospital is trying a new approach to get newly insured residents to stop using emergency rooms as their main source of medical care and develop relationships with doctors instead.

The pilot project at Aurora Sinai Medical Center, the only hospital left in a mostly poor, black area of downtown Milwaukee, is labor intensive. But it’s showing promise in getting patients connected with primary care doctors and in cutting ER costs.

“We’re targeting the high utilizers of the emergency department,” says Mark Huber, the hospital’s senior vice president of social responsibility.

Huber says the hospital placed social workers in the ER full time. It then identified 313 so-called frequent fliers who visited Aurora Sinai’s ER at least five times in four months. Those patients alone accounted for 1,827 emergency room visits in that time.

The social workers chose 39 people out of the 313 and spent the next eight months trying to change their habits so that when they get sick, they go to a primary care doctor or clinic rather than the ER.