Government Adds To The Cost Of Medical Care

One of the for profit hospitals in the Raleigh area is Wake Med.

WakeMed Health and Hospitals is a 870-bed healthcare system with multiple facilities placed around the metropolitan Raleigh, North Carolina area.  WakeMed’s main campus is located on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh, North Carolina. WakeMed serves multiple counties throughout the state and specializes in a variety of services including cardiology, neurology, orthopedics, high-risk pregnancy, children’s care, trauma, physical rehabilitation and critical care transport.

In addition to providing the above services they also have emergency rooms.  And being a for profit entity Wake Med is looking for ways to improve the efficiency of medical care delivery.  And they have a solution.

See, Wake Med feels that delivering non-emergent care through emergency rooms isn’t efficient.  In fact, if handled correctly, the hospital feels that it could save a great deal of money:

The Raleigh hospital says it has a plan that could save millions in costs by diverting low-risk patients from expensive emergency care.

Due to the regulations of medical care institutions, people, ALL people, walking into an emergency room must be treated.

Under federal law, hospitals must treat anyone who shows up in an emergency room.

Not surprisingly, this isn’t the most efficient method of care delivery:

One unintended side effect of the law: People use the emergency room for purposes better suited to a health clinic or family doctor.

“Patients come to the emergency room complaining of a bad cold or a headache or wanting a physical,” said Dr. Susan Weaver, WakeMed’s head of medical affairs. “A doctor has to see them and discharge them.”

Emergency rooms are expensive to operate. They are open 24 hours a day and have to be staffed with doctors, nurses, pharmacists and more.

A doctor must conduct a medical exam for everyone entering the emergency room. Weaver has been pushing for approval for WakeMed to treat patients with non-emergency medical conditions in a less expensive setting.

If a person came in with a bad cold or headache, a triage nurse could offer to make an appointment for the patient at a clinic or doctor’s office. The patient would have to sign a waiver.

WakeMed estimates it has 35,000 emergency room visits yearly with non-emergency conditions.

The average emergency room visit runs up a cost of $524, according to Debbie Laughery, a hospital spokeswoman. Sending a patient to a community clinic such as Alliance Medical Ministry, in the shadow of the WakeMed complex, costs $92 a visit with lab tests and medicine…

35,000 emergency room visits per year.  35,000 visits that could be handled through non-emergent services.

How much would this save?

Diverting half the non-emergency patients from WakeMed could save $5 million or more a year.

$5,000,000.  Per year.

If you wanna save money and provide better service, do NOT look to the government for help.


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