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November 5, 2021

Bright Spots: Reduce expensive ER and urgent care visits by 33% with asynchronous care

With physician and nurse shortages on the rise, burnout reaching crisis levels among staff, and health systems stretched for revenue, many executives are looking to alternative means to help stem the tide. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the U.S. could see an estimated shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034. Although shortages span both primary and specialty care areas, primary care in particular could see a lack of doctors ranging from an estimated 17,800 to 48,000 physicians nationwide.

Layered on top of that is a rise in expensive ER trips, which means lost revenue for systems and a hefty price tag for consumers. According to a report done by UnitedHealth Group, two-thirds of hospital ER visits annually by privately insured individuals in the U.S. are avoidable—18 million out of 27 million, in fact. The average cost of care for each of those ER trips is about $2,032, which is about 12 times higher than a traditional visit to a doctor’s office. In addition, according to one study conducted by the Annals of Internal Medicine, it costs about $150 to be treated for three of the most common illnesses in the country—a sore throat, urinary tract infection, or ear infection—in an urgent care setting.

Yet, with those estimated 18 million visits to ERs being avoidable—combined with the right technological solutions—health systems could see a potential savings of $32 billion per year across the U.S.

The Bright Spot: Reducing 33 percent of unnecessary ER and urgent care visits

How can your organization reduce expensive ER and urgent care visits, while also improving efficiencies and solving staffing shortages? Asynchronous telehealth can play a major role in addressing low-acuity urgent care conditions, freeing up provider time and ER capacity for emergent conditions that require that level of care. Thirty-three percent of patients who have used Bright.md in the past 12 months said they would have sought care in the ER or an urgent care center if Bright.md wasn’t available to them.


What does this tell us?

First, patient navigation is key. For example, health systems don’t want patients with a simple ear infection arriving at their urgent care clinic due to pain and wanting a prescription; instead, patients can be directed to virtual care to solve those issues more effectively and efficiently.

With Bright.md’s easy-to-use Navigate solution, patients are asked to answer a few questions about their symptoms and are directed to recommended care options based on their needs. Navigate links the patient directly to the appropriate next step configured by the health system—whether that be an on-demand asynchronous appointment, a scheduling tool, or the nearest ER or urgent care clinic, if it truly is an emergency.

Navigate includes more than 100 conditions that can match to a patient’s complaint, ranging from symptoms that can be treated asynchronously to those that require in-person care. With a tool like Navigate by Bright.md, health systems can compete with direct-to-consumer options, while meeting patients where they’re at and helping guide them to the right venue of care at the right time based on their symptoms. 

Secondly, with an asynchronous solution, health systems can see key benefits for their patients, providers, and their bottom line, due to the technology’s ability to redirect patients with low-acuity conditions away from the ER. These benefits include:

Patient satisfaction: In addition to the significant cost savings asynchronous care can provide, the technology helps with patient satisfaction numbers—something all organizations should keep an eye on as direct-to-consumer options become increasingly popular. About 96 percent of patients who have used Bright.md say they are satisfied with their experience, and nine out of 10 say they would like to use Bright.md again.

Significantly less wait-times: Instead of making the trip to an ER or an urgent care clinic, a patient can get treatment for low-acuity conditions like ear infections, colds or rashes through Bright.md with wait-times of just six minutes on average to get a diagnosis and care plan from a trusted provider. They don’t even have to leave home, and can get care at night or on the weekends.

Reduced costs: With the average ER trip costing about $2,032, health systems can see significant savings by redirecting patients to online care.

Provider time to deliver care: On average, providers can access the Bright.md platform and deliver care within three-and-a-half minutes. Bright.md also significantly reduces the administrative burden on your clinicians by drafting a chart-ready SOAP note that integrates directly into the EMR, leaving more time for providers to practice at the top of their license.

As shortages are being felt across the country, provider burnout is plaguing many, forcing organizations to lessen the load on their doctors while enabling them to spend time where they’re needed most. According to Bright.md’s Dr. Edward Abraham, clinicians are also burnt out because of how much time they’re spending with their EMRs and are looking for solutions to help them with their day-to-day activities. 

“They want to spend more time having human contact versus typing away and entering information,” said Dr. Abraham. “They’d like to use their skill sets and practice medicine at a high level. But mainly, clinicians want to care for people, and they’d like to have more time to do that. As for their relationships with health system leadership, clinicians also hope that the technologies chosen can reduce documentation burden and allow them to be more effective.”

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