Far too often, emergency rooms are being sought out for problems that could be handled in a traditional doctor’s office or an urgent care setting. Research shows that healthcare access ranks as one of the top community health concerns, but the emergency room was never designed to be the first point of contact in the process of receiving care. According to Brent VanConia who serves as president of St. Mary’s Health Center, area providers and health centers are working together to make healthcare more accessible through means other than local emergency departments as well as educate the public regarding their best-suited options.
A News Tribune article provides some background on what is being done to minimize costs and provide better access to care. Because emergency rooms are designed for elevated trauma, they are expensive to maintain and operate. And according to Capital Region Medical Center’s VP of operations, Janet Weckenborg, those resources need to be available at a moment’s notice.
One suggestion to provide better care access is to increase Medicaid coverage within the state. But while expanding access to Medicaid will improve the situation, experts agree it is not a fix-all. Other hospitals are looking to implement a solution like that provided by Heartland Health in St. Joseph. Currently, the hospital prioritizes emergency room patients based on the severity of their condition, and while everyone is evaluated, minor cases are reviewed by a nurse or nurse practitioner and are later “navigated” to other facilities for appropriate care. The model has resulted in less minor visits to the emergency room.
Mental health is no different. Expanding access to all types of healthcare, both physical and mental, is important to preserving a person’s overall well-being. Sustaining regular communication with the right provider is also important to ensure patients receive the highest level of care. Many times, the physical symptoms that accompany a chronic mental health problem can become severe — leading to further emergency room visits –while the mental health problem at the cause remains undiagnosed and untreated. Mental health professionals at the Family Guidance Center provide screenings and several other mental healthcare services, regardless of income. For more information on how to set up a visit, call Family Guidance Center today.