I recently read an article on what some say is the conventional wisdom of healthcare costs in the United States which, as a percent of gross domestic product, are higher than most other countries. The article works to demonstrate that the reason for the higher than average cost and the lack of “better” health outcomes in light of significantly higher spending is attributable to non-healthcare issues such as lack of access, especially for the poor. With the drive of healthcare reform to make sure the U.S. population is insured and address the shortage of primary care physicians increasing as high as 31,000 (“Physician Supply and Demand Through 2025: Key Findings,” Association of American Medical Colleges, April 1, 2015), where will people receive their primary care, and at what cost? What if there were a more efficient and cost effective way to deliver care to populations that lack access or don’t have the ability to easily access care. Here are some data points to set the stage:
- According to a 2010 Rand Corporation Study, a redirection of non-urgent emergency department visits could save approximately $4.4 billion annually.
- Emergency room visits are rising: for the ten years from 1996-2006 visits were up 36%, reported in the 2014 American College of Emergency Physicians Polling Survey Results.
- According to the 2012 National Conference of State Legislatures report, “Beyond 911: State and Community Strategies for Expanding The Primary Care Role of First Responders,” the three main drivers of emergency department and emergency medical services misuse are lack of access to primary care providers and services, chronic illness and medical severity, and homelessness.