By Belinda Johnson-Cornett
American reliance on the hospital emergency rooms continues to increase. Many of these visits can be prevented with access to a primary care medical home. Inappropriate and preventable use of the hospital emergency rooms (ERs) is not only an inefficient use of healthcare resources, but is also very costly. To further complicate the issue, the number of people without health insurance has increased pressure on hospital ERs, which serve as the primary care provider for many who are uninsured, underinsured, and those who have limited access to primary care and medical specialty providers. Further, many of the medically underserved delay or avoid obtaining the necessary health care, which can result in higher rates of hospitalization for ambulatory care sensitive conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular, and other chronic diseases.
Studies have shown that a number of chronic health diseases, like diabetes, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, can be effectively treated with primary medical care, including regular use of medications for diabetes or hypertension or steroid inhalers for asthma.
These “ambulatory-sensitive” conditions can be controlled through appropriate ambulatory (i.e., office-based) care. When these diseases are not well-controlled, they can lead to expensive emergency room visits or even hospitalizations.
To help to address this issue, and ease the burden on an already “stressed” ER system, a new community resource program was developed under the leadership of the Florida Department of Health-Osceola in partnership with several community partners (Council on Aging, Community Vision, Florida Hospital, Health Council of East Central Florida, Osceola County EMS, and Osceola County Human Services).
The Phone2Home program offers the citizens of Osceola County a resource to connect them to needed services. The goal of the program is to work in collaboration with the County EMS to help identify those in need of healthcare and other community services and resources who routinely use the 911 system for those “ambulatory-sensitive” conditions that can be controlled through appropriate ambulatory (i.e.,office-based) care and to assess these residents for other services they may need to ensure that residents receive the most appropriate level of quality care in the most appropriate health care setting.
For additional information about this program and available community services, please contact Kimberly Knight, Program Coordinator at 407-944-7163, or Kimberly.Knight@flhealth.gov. You can visit the website at www.phone2home.org.