Area health care organizations say public service announcements aimed at cutting avoidable visits to local hospital emergency departments appear to have worked.
The Monroe County Medical Society, Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency and Excellus BlueCross BlueShield sponsored a series of public service announcements that ran on local television stations from December 2011 to March. The ads encouraged residents to take minor health complaints to their primary care physicians or urgent care facilities instead of seeking more costly care in EDs.
“Patients who have non-emergency medical conditions often face long wait times in the ER, may not get the right follow-up care and can waste valuable health care resources because a trip to the ER costs significantly more than a visit with their primary care doctor,” said Thomas Mahoney M.D., director of community health improvement at FLHSA.
Excellus, which is the region’s largest health insurer, reported a 9 percent drop from the previous year’s ED claims in the first quarter and saw an upsurge in urgent care visits during the same period. Urgent care visits for sore throats, minor colds and similar complaints doubled, while the number of patients visiting doctors’ offices stayed flat. ED visits rose after the ads went off the air, but the insurer has not yet determined how many of the extra visits could have been shunted to urgent care or primary care settings, Excellus spokeswoman Joy Auch said.
Aided by the Medical Society of the State of New York, the three organizations again have been running the ads locally. Plans are in the works for Excellus and county medical societies in Broome, Herkimer and Oneida counties to launch similar campaigns, Excellus officials said.
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