News Feature | April 7, 2014

Big Data Drops ER Visits 10%

Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

Big Data ER Visits

Data exchange reduces unnecessary ER visits by Medicaid patients by 10 percent for Washington State Health Care Authority

Data sharing has driven positive outcomes in Washington, where a mandatory program was implemented two year ago requiring hospitals in the state to use the Emergency Department Information Exchange.

iHealth Beat, writes, “Under the program, patients' names are sent to the database when they register at an ED. The exchange then provides physicians with a list of recent ED visits by the patient. So far, 424 primary care physicians have registered to receive automatic notifications through the system if one of their patients goes to the ED.” Unnecessary ED visits by Medicaid beneficiaries have been reduced by 10 percent as a result.

“If a patient was seen three days ago at Harbor View Medical Center and walked into Valley Medical Center 25 miles south, the treating physician might know they were seen there and might have some info about what went up,” explains Dan Lessler, the chief medical officer for Washington state’s Medicaid program in an article from Business Week. “Up until that point, you never had that information.”

A report released one year after the initiative began further revealed narcotics prescriptions for Medicaid beneficiaries dropped by 24 percent and the initiative is partially responsible for Medicaid ER costs declining by $33.7 million. “It also created a whole new set of data so hospitals and communities could look at what patients are coming back to our emergency rooms,” says Carol Wagner, senior vice president for patient safety at the Washington State Hospital Association.

According to Wagner, when a handful of rural hospitals found their patients were suffering from pain, they joined forces to create the area’s first pain management clinic. Oregon is beginning a similar initiative and Washington officials have also answered inquiries from other states such as California, Ohio, New York, Texas, and Florida.