Background. A small group of adults disproportionately and ineffectively use acute services including emergency medical services (EMS) and emergency departments (EDs). The resulting episodic, uncoordinated care is of lower quality and higher cost and simultaneously consumes valuable public safety and acute care resources.
Objective. To address this issue, we measured the impact of a pilot, EMS-based case management and referral intervention termed the San Diego Resource Access Program (RAP) to reduce EMS, ED, and inpatient (IP) visits. Methods. This was a historical cohort study of RAP records and billing data of EMS and one urban hospital for 51 individuals sequentially enrolled in the program. The study sample consisted of adults with ≥10 EMS transports within 12 months and others reported by prehospital personnel with significant recent increases in transports. Data were collected over a 31-month time period from December 2006 to June 2009. Data were collected for equal pre- and postenrollment time periods based on date of initial RAP contact, and comparisons were made using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test. Overall use for subjects is reported.
Results. The majority of subjects were male (64.7%), homeless (58.8%), and 40 to 59 years of age (72.5%). Between the pre and post periods, EMS encounters declined 37.6% from 736 to 459 (p = 0.001), resulting in a 32.1% decrease in EMS charges from $689,743 to $468,394 (p = 0.004). The EMS task time and mileage decreased by 39.8% and 47.5%, respectively, accounting for 262 (p = 0.008) hours and 1,940 (p = 0.006) miles. The number of ED encounters at the one participating hospital declined 28.1% from 199 to 143, which correlated with a 12.7% decrease in charges from $413,410 to $360,779. The number of IP admissions declined by 9.1% from 33 to 30, corresponding to a 5.9% decrease in IP charges from $687,306 to $646,881. Hospital length of stay declined 27.9%, from 122 to 88 days. Across all services, total charges declined by $314,406.
Conclusions. This pilot study demonstrated that an EMS-based case management and referral program was an effective means of decreasing EMS transports by frequent users, but had only a limited impact on use of hospital services.
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