New Initiative Saves Emergency Services Funds, Reduces Wait Times for Critical Medical Care

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Paul O’Rourke

Vice President, Development & Communications

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Intermountain Centers’ New Initiative Saves Emergency Services Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars and Reduces Wait Times for Critical Medical Care

[Tucson, Arizona] June 26, 2024. Intermountain Centers has received the first round of data from its Project Readmission Disrupt, a new initiative aimed at reducing non-necessary visits to the emergency room. The outcomes revealed a 38% decrease in emergency department utilization over the course of nine months and a 66% decrease in inpatient readmissions, a result that has saved AHCCCS and the healthcare system hundreds of thousands of dollars in what would otherwise be improperly utilized resources that can be put toward more critical patient needs.

This initiative shows extraordinary promise, the results dovetailing with Intermountain’s larger goal to expand the project into a statewide program that ultimately reduces rising healthcare costs, saves emergency services over a million dollars each year, cuts wait times for ER visitors and their loved ones, and reduces burnout in emergency room nurses and doctors due to the overwhelming influx of patients. Shorter wait times also means faster interventions, which potentially could result in more lives saved.

An average trip to the emergency room costs $500, a cost that either AHCCCS or the public healthcare system will shoulder. A sizable number of visits to emergency rooms are for non-necessary reasons that could be better addressed through urgent or primary care, placing immense strain on an already overstretched healthcare ecosystem. A preventative intervention at its core, Project Readmission Disrupt sought to first understand the root causes of non-necessary emergency room visits. Internal audits revealed a series of meaningful driving factors: a poorly managed chronic healthcare condition such as diabetes or hypertension, behavioral health issues such as panic disorder, a lack of quality primary care, substance use disorders, and housing insecurity.

As the team dug further, one conclusion became clear: the factors that drive individuals to go to the emergency room for unnecessary reasons can be universally addressed through integrated care models that prioritize proactive care coordination, primary care, addressing health-related social needs, and psychosocial intervention.

“With nearly all the individuals Intermountain Centers and Affiliates serves qualifying as low-income,” said Kyle Lininger, Vice President of Clinical Integration, “inessential trips to the emergency room can place a major strain on a financially burdened system.  As one of the state’s largest nonprofits, and one of the most impactful health and human services organizations in Arizona, Intermountain has a history of innovation that shapes the landscape of Arizona’s healthcare system.”

After nearly a year of working closely with patient members to address their specific needs at five integrated care sites, the team received the results that pave the way for an exciting statewide program.

Every year Intermountain and its affiliates, which include Pinal Hispanic Council, Family Service Agency, and Community Partners, serve more than 20,000 patients across the state of Arizona for a variety of health needs including primary care, mental health, autism, substance use, homelessness, foster care, youth development including workforce readiness training, and more. Intermountain celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

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