Ease Data Flow, Cut Emergency Care, Save Tax Dollars

Oct 16, 2013

Through an easier exchange of computerized health records, state officials hope to lower traffic at emergency rooms and save millions of dollars.  The initiative is aimed at patients known as ‘super utilizers’

FRANKFORT— Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, poses a question during the October meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare.
Credit Legislative Research Commission

Health care’s ‘super utilizer’ is typically described as a patient who visits an emergency room ten times a year.  State Medicaid officials say about 44-hundred Kentuckians fit that description.   State Public Health Commissioner Stephanie Mayfield Gibson predicts better exchange of health information can cut those numbers.

“And our efforts are to improve quality and with that improvement of quality we expect to improve outcomes and recognize some cost savings with that as well,” said Mayfield Gibson.

By giving super utilizing patients easier access to preventative and primary care, Medicaid officials say they can cut costs by 30 percent.  Medicaid Services Chief Medical Officer John Langefeld says it would amount to 90 million dollars in savings. 

“Part of the assessment by the care coordination team at the local facility will be to identify those social determinants that may be undermining or underlying their use of the system historically and how to address those in an effective way. It may include transportation.  It may include housing,” said Langefeld.

Credit Stu Johnson / WEKU News

  Allen Brenzel, who’s Medical Director in the State Department for Behavioral Health, says computer records can help them track these patients.

“Some of these individuals, they’re not seen in the same e-r ten times.  They’re seen in ten different emergency rooms.  So, they might not individually identify them as super utilizers.  And, we’ve seen as many people as using 20 to 30 different emergency rooms in a year,” added Brenzel.

16 hospitals, and several local health departments, are participating in the initiative.