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July 14, 2017

Harvard Pilgrim grant supports EMMC initiative to curb unnecessary admissions

Eastern Maine Medical Center's Emergency Department is partnering with primary care providers in an initiative to reduce return trips to the emergency department as well as unnecessary hospital admissions. The key is ensuring timely follow-up care, and a team of research interns is helping to make this collaboration work.

The project is supported by a $75,000 Harvard Pilgrim Quality Grant.

Project leader Dr. Heidi Larson, EMMC's medical director for population health, said one goal of the project is make scheduling primary care follow-up appointments more convenient for patients, which she expects will increase their safety after leaving the hospital.

"Consider the patient with congestive heart failure who is treated in the Emergency Department for shortness of breath," Larson said in a news release. "Securing a follow-up appointment with a primary care provider right away makes it less likely that the patient will end up back in the ED and be admitted to the hospital."

Larson has set a goal of reducing the readmission rate for ambulatory care sensitive conditions such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia by 1%, which would save the hospital hundreds of thousands of dollars and, most importantly, improve patient care through enhancements in communication and patient engagement.

Seven college students with an interest in health care or business management have been recruited as research interns to help with coordinating the appointments.

Each day, a team member works with patients and families in the emergency department to schedule next-day primary care appointments — which ensures that details of the patient's hospital stay, including lab and imaging results, are sent to the outpatient provider.

The project targets patients who have an Eastern Maine Medical Center or Penobscot Community Health Center provider and is continually expanding to include other providers.

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