Houston area emergency rooms have been working on easing over-crowding, it’s been the same at Texas Children’s Hospital. Part of the answer has been found by going into the communities.
Texas Children’s Hospital emergency room activity was increasing about eight percent annually. Texas Children’s Pediatric Associates studied the issue and the group’s president, Doctor Ayse McCracken says an answer emerged from defining the problem.
“We found that a significant portion of the activity in the emergency room was really primary care services and coming from, about 30 percent of that, coming from neighborhoods where there was not access to primary care services on a continuous basis.”
Since there were no neighborhood doctors, families turned to the emergency room. McCracken says the first Pediatric Medical Home opened in the Third Ward about five years ago.
“We now have three Project Medical Home sites established and we’ve seen a stabilization of our emergency room volume since we’ve opened up these sites. They do have after-hours in most of those sites. The Third Ward is about to have after-hours in its location. But we are seeing so many children in those locations that it has taken off some of the increasing activity and demand we were seeing in our emergency room.”
That was not the only benefit says McCracken.
“In the first year of activity in the Third Ward, 33 percent of the families were coming in completely uninsured. Today, only eight percent of the families are coming in completely uninsured. So not only are we making access available from a location perspective, but we’re also getting them insurance.”
McCracken says not only does it mean better continuous care for children, but it’s financially efficient. She says the average emergency room visit is around $500 compared to $100 for a standard doctor’s visit.
McCracken says Pediatric Medical Homes do depend on donations from public and private entities to survive. The Pediatric Medical Home project is focusing on the second, third and fifth wards as well as in the Gulfton neighborhoods.