Health Policy Economics Class Essay

Pages: 8 (2850 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Healthcare


The National Association of Community Health Centers argues that over 18 billion dollars are wasted each year for visits to emergency rooms that are avoidable as a result of being treatable in non-urgent or primary care settings. This figure is calculated on the assumption that 35% of all visits to emergency rooms are avoidable, by far a conservative estimate. Furthermore, overutilization of emergency rooms drives health care costs high and also decreases the quality of care significantly. As the overcrowding of emergency rooms causes increase in health care costs for the providers, many are switching off their emergency departments since they are becoming too expensive to run. Moreover, as waiting times in emergency rooms are increasing, the patient perceptions of emergency room health care quality are decreasing which threatens the future of health care departments.

Possible solutions

1. Health care homes

Health care homes are possible solutions to the crisis facing emergency rooms as a result of their overutilization. A health care home is a practice which is home-based rather than the more common institutional-based care. Here, the patient receives majority of their health care in a manner that is continuous, regular and patient-centered which improves their health outcomes and helps to keep the cost of health care sufficiently low. By providing patients with a health care home, they are less likely to suffer from a costlier illness later in life and this decreases their chances of going to emergency rooms to receive health care.

2. Retail clinics

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Retail or walk-in health clinics, also known as convenience care clinics, are usually located in pharmacies and drug stores can also help to reduce the utilization of emergency rooms. As studied by Gupta and Wang (2008)

TOPIC: Essay on Health Policy Economics Class. Master Assignment

, these retail clinics cost roughly one-fifth of an emergency room visit and it is estimated that 10% of all emergency room visits can be provided with adequate care by retail clinic staff. Another study identified the retail clinic as a solution for simple acute care for many of those who may visit emergency rooms. On the negative, retail clinics have been seen to eliminate the traditional physician-patient relationship since a study found that out of 125,000 visitors to retail clinics, less than 10% were willing to visit a hospital or emergency department Charatan, 2008()

3. Telehealth

Telehealth provides patients with 24-hour access to physician services via the use of telephones which helps to reduce the number of avoidable visits to emergency rooms from 41% to just 8%. Telehealth involves telephone consultation services coupled with telephone triage services where nurses operate triage programs to provide patients with prompt medical advice. The latter has been seen to reduce utilization of emergency rooms by more than 4% and has saved more than 400,000 dollars for emergency departments. Telehealth has, however, been criticized to lead to a significant increase in the mortality rate of patients as a result of their reliance on these services for chronic conditions.

Solution and its implementation

Health care homes are the chosen solution for this problem. For the solution to be a success, as the access to health care homes is expanded, patients should also be provided with increased access to health insurance. Studies in this field have shown that though health care homes may increase access to primary care thus leading to decreased utilization of emergency rooms, for it to make a greater impact on health care costs, it should be coupled with increased insurance coverage. This should be designed as a gradual process whereby additional homes are added gradually as the progress is evaluated. Additionally, in the implementation, two types of health care homes should be set up. The first is the primary care chronic conditions healthcare home which comprises of federally qualified health centers that receive federal aid and grants, rural health centers and physician practices. The second group is the community mental health center healthcare home which comprises of community mental health centers and their affiliates. This group will address behavioral health needs that address medical problems facing the patients such as schizophrenia that may cause other conditions such as cardiovascular and pulmonary complications and other infectious diseases. This is the implementation that was chosen for Missouri which is the first state to implement health care homes.

Health care homes should be staffed with allied professionals and other paraprofessionals such as physician assistants, medical technicians and nurse practitioners since it is difficult to ensure the availability of primary care physicians for these health care homes. They should also be coupled with strategies such as wellness, health education and prevention measures for the treatment and rehabilitation of patients.


Health care homes are bound to be successful in increasing access to primary health care for patients thus reducing the utilization of emergency rooms since they provide patients with a usual source of health care despite inequitable distribution of primary care physicians. These health care homes also include programs that redirect Medicaid spending to appropriate primary care providers instead of emergency departments which also significantly reduces spending on Medicaid reimbursement. This will create an avenue for the Medicaid program to encourage more people to join the programs as a result of the creation of a more efficient health care delivery system which greatly reduces the loss of Medicaid revenue. Medicaid savings will also come from improved health outcomes for patients as a result of fewer hospitalizations and visits to specialists. Olson (2010)

argues that regular users of health care homes visit emergency departments for emergent reasons 50% fewer times than nonusers.


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Olson, L.K. (2010). The Politics of Medicaid: Columbia University Press.

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