The “Know Where to Go” campaign is designed to help area residents find and utilize a “medical home” as an alternative to ERs and quick care clinics for medical non-emergencies. According to MAPP Collaborative Coordinator Jenny Gorszczyk, “’Know Where to Go’ will lower health care costs for everyone and result in higher quality medical outcomes.”
“The numbers really tell the story,” said Gorszczyk, Community Planning Program Manager for the Will County Health Department’s Division of Family Health Services. “Getting care from a patient-centered medical home rather than from an ER decreases the cost of care by approximately 500 percent,” she explained. “If all Will County residents were to utilize a medical home for non-emergency care, the collective savings is estimated to be $18 billion annually. Not only that, but the care you receive from your medical home is likely to be more accessible and of a higher quality too.”
By definition, a “medical home” is a place where all of your health care is coordinated by a primary care provider (PCP). Your PCP can be a doctor’s office, community health center, clinic, or health department. A hospital ER, or emergency department is not a medical home.
“The biggest advantage of finding and using a medical home is consistent care. An ER isn’t going to be in touch with a family and its specific needs,” Gorszczyk continued. “A medical home usually offers a more personalized experience, which could result in a quicker diagnosis and treatment.”
During the 12 months ending in September, 2015, Will County residents made 36,754 non-emergency medical visits to 109 ERs scattered across Illinois. The county’s three ER facilities totaled 24,081 non-emergency visits. According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans made more than 138.1 million visits to one of the country’s nearly 5,000 ER facilities during 2015.
The National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey says approximately 40 percent of all ER visits are for sprains, strains, upper respiratory infections, or other non-emergency medical conditions. The decision to receive care at a more costly ER facility is one reason why Americans spent more than $3 trillion on health care during 2014.
According to MAPP’s Primary Health Care Action Team, fever, sore throat, cough, ear ache, tooth ache, diarrhea, vomiting, painful urinations, allergies, cuts, stitch removal, sprains, physicals and prescription refills are all important occasions that do not require an ER visit. Reasons for an ER visit include: bleeding that won’t stop, breathing difficulties, serious injuries or accidents, seizures, convulsions, risk of poisonings, head injuries or concussions, chest pains, feelings of suicide, and sudden changes in vision or feeling in the arms or legs. When in doubt, call a physician or 911.
The “Know Where to Go” project has been more than two years in the making. Principal underwriters include: the Will County Health Department, the Will County Community Health Center, Aunt Martha’s, VNA Health Care, and the Will Grundy Medical Clinic.
MAPP has assembled a tool kit to help area medical providers, social service agencies and the general public familiarize themselves with the importance of establishing a medical home and when you should go to the emergency room. Visit http://willknowwheretogo.org/ to download a free toolkit.
“We’re hoping to spark conversations about why it is important to get routine medical care from a medical home and not an ER,” Gorszczyk said. “We’re hoping that churches and social groups become involved and that we can start discussions to help spread the message. We know there are some issues that will come to light, but the purpose is to help to address concerns and shape a system that will benefit the entire community.”
For more information about “Know Where to Go,” telephone Jenny Gorszczyk at 815-727-5089.