Despite the nation’s declining uninsured rate, America’s emergency rooms (ERs) continue to see patient visits increase.

Michael Sandler, writing in the January 17, 2015 edition of Modern Healthcare, reported that the nation’s 24 busiest emergency rooms received 18.7% more visits in 2013 than in 2012, and many of those reported even higher volumes in 2014.

This runs counter to predictions that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would shift the newly insured from ERs to primary care physicians once they obtained insurance.


Dr. Howard Mell, a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians, calls the increase “a failure of access to care.”  To read more, click here.

The rate at which primary-care doctors are closing their offices is partly to blame, some observers say, as is a trend to refuse treatment of Medicare patients and redirect them to the ER forr minor flare-ups of chronic problems.

However, other analysts suggest the newly insured traditionally wait to seek care until they require emergency measures, but that this custom will change once they become familiar with health insurance.

Sandler points to a TeleTracking client, Lakeland Regional Medical Center, Lakeland, FL, to explain how one of the nation’s busiest ERs is handling the increase.

Lakeland received more than 200,000 emergency room visits in 2014, almost 7% more than the previous year.

“To meet high demand, the hospital reorganized its ER from two service areas (critical and noncritical) to nine care pods: one for triage, one for children, six for adults and one for fast-track patients…  The hospital now also uses a registered nurse – bed-traffic controller – and pod nurse supervisors to keep patient care moving.” 

These changes are enabled, in part, by TeleTracking’s Capacity Management Suite™ system.

Janet Fansler, Lakeland’s Chief Operating Officer, noted that since Florida did not expand Medicaid, and Lakeland’s Polk County service area had a 27.2% uninsured rate in 2012, it was “difficult to isolate and statistically correlate the impact of the ACA.”

Regardless of the cause, the increase is real, and TeleTracking’s operational management software, including its ‘bed traffic control’ feature, is helping hundreds of hospitals across the country successfully manager the changing demands.

To download Lakeland Regional Medical Center’s case study, click here.

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