Emergency department (ED) diversion is a long-standing strategy that is deployed when hospital beds are full and the ED cannot send admitted patients upstairs to a bed. In short, hospitals can request from local EMS officials to be placed on ‘diversion status’ in order to not receive any more EMS mediated visits until conditions in the ED improve.
Due to the recent COVID spike, hospitals around the nation are at capacity and they’re using diversion strategies to manage the influx of patients. However, going on diversion has patient safety and financial implications for the health system and the communities they serve.
Combine the current needs of healthcare consumers with the COVID-19 pandemic, and even ED diversion strategies aren’t as effective as they were a few years ago. The same antiquated strategies for ED diversion aren’t working anymore.
In order to make ED diversion effective, you need digital strategies in place to communicate better with the population.
Educate your population
EMTALA rules prevent systems from steering people once they’re on the property. Before a patient is ever thinking about heading into the ER, they need to be educated on what constitutes an emergency visit. If your hospital is on diversion, patients need to be educated about what that means when they’re seeking ambulatory care.
Now that patients are looking for care online, your website and social presence are your “digital front door” to care. Use that to your advantage! You can communicate with patients about ED diversion via your website and social media handles.
Use your website to direct traffic to locations
While you’re updating your website to better communicate with patients, consider tools you can add that can take communication one step further. An AI chatbot on your website can act as the first line of defense when patients come to search for answers to questions and directing patients to the right kind of care.
The bot walks a patient through a series of fully customizable questions, with multiple acute care options (primary care, urgent care, and telemedicine) with real-time availability. These are presented to the patient so they can choose the appropriate modality based on their symptoms.
The back-end of the bot is customizable. Based on system preferences, you can direct the patient to the appropriate setting. For example, if you want urgent care patients to be seen virtually before an in-person visit, you can set that up.
Instead of relying only on patients to choose where they go for care, the health system can guide the patient to where they should go, better controlling your traffic to each care setting.
MultiCare has seen a lot of success using Solv’s virtual assistant to triage COVID patients from their website to manage the influx of COVID patients.
Point to telehealth as an alternative to an ER visit
Consumers start their search for care online, so having multiple modalities to choose from on your website is crucial to delivering the modality of care they need. This allows patients to enter into you practice via multiple additional doors. COVID-19 has dramatically impacted telehealth services, which patients now equate with an easy way to get ambulatory care.
Only 13% of telehealth visits were referred to Urgent Care, a specialist, or Emergency Department. 87% of telehealth patients receive everything they need from their virtual visit without needing to see a provider in person.
6% of telemed visits and 7% of in-person visits who booked through Solv say they would have gone to ED had they not had the visit available to them1. Pre-COVID, this number was 14%. Offering telehealth services can help your ED avoid going on diversion.
Offering telemedicine doesn’t mean that your patients will never come in person again, but it does make it easier for your patients to access high-quality care in a more convenient way and locks them into your brand with the extra peace of mind it offers. The peace of mind that a telemed offering provides is a huge value proposition in the new ecosystem.
Give patients the option to schedule appointments online
Studies show that up to 62% of ED patients could have been seen in an alternative setting. And, 60% of non-urgent patients went to the ED for “ease of use” because they felt that the ED was more convenient than seeing their PCP.
Patients are going to the ED for perceived convenience because the way healthcare is currently set up doesn’t work for their lives. Give patients a way to schedule and reschedule doctor’s appointments on their own, and you will surely see fewer visits to your ED.
Patients who book through your website once are able to re-book future appointments with two clicks, making it easier and more convenient than ever for them to book an Urgent Care appointment. Allowing patients to re-book easily also prevents leakage from your brand, and you still have the ability to refer them to the ED when appropriate.
You can set up online booking through your website. Combine online appointments with your chatbot and telehealth services, and you’re on your way to building your own digital front door and capturing a huge portion of patients seeking convenience—without a true emergency—before they ever head to one of your Emergency Departments.
Solv partners with hospital systems to offer a modern care experience for today’s healthcare consumers—chat, telemedicine, urgent care, primary care—with an underlying data repository enabling personalization in the consumer experience and navigation to high value, high-quality care. Discover how you can improve your diversion strategy with Solv.
1 Source: Solv consumer survey