Pittsburgh Hospitals Reduce Emergency Department Visits using Patient Navigators
Three hospitals in western Pennsylvania had a 43 percent reduction in excessive emergency department visits by using patient navigators – low-cost, trained members of the community who connect patients with essential care services – as part of a one-year pilot study conducted by Accenture and the Highmark Foundation.
With the support of the Patient Navigation Institute (PNI), Accenture and the Highmark Foundation developed the pilot, deploying certified patient navigators to assist roughly 4,000 patients across three western Pennsylvania hospitals: St. Vincent Health System in Erie, Allegheny Valley in Pittsburgh and Jameson Health System in New Castle. In addition to patient navigators reducing emergency department visits, one system had a 60 percent reduction in 30-day readmissions, as part of a broad set of activities, and another had a 13 percent increase in colonoscopy screenings for early detection.
“The essence of patient navigation is our responsibility to use finite clinical resources wisely to deliver quality healthcare no matter people’s circumstances,” said Dr. Harold Freeman, founder of the Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute. “Its roots began in cancer care two decades ago, but the benefits of patient navigators are transferable, reaching beyond a single disease or income bracket.”
The navigators took on necessary, non-clinical tasks – such as conducting post-discharge follow-ups, connecting patients to local care services and scheduling physician appointments—offsetting clinicians’ tasks by approximately 25 percent, and enabling them to focus more on the care of patients. Research by the World Health Organization indicates an existing shortage of 500,000 U.S. healthcare workers today, and Accenture estimates that the demand for patient navigators will nearly double over the next three years.
“In initiating the pilot program, we recognized the opportunity to improve and assure timely access to quality healthcare for the communities we serve, while creating sustainable employment opportunities,” said Yvonne Cook, president of the Highmark Foundation. “We look forward to replicating the successes achieved in that study in other communities in the future.”
“Patient navigation not only creates a one-to-one connection for the patient, it serves as a low-cost investment that delivers significant value to care delivery,” said David Balderson, who leads patient navigation at Accenture. “The Highmark Foundation is uniquely positioned to help hospitals and patients navigate a number of obstacles within the health system while freeing up time for clinicians to do what they do best – provide care.”
As announced last year, the Highmark Foundation committed $254,500 and Accenture provided services at no cost to patients in support of the one-year program. Accenture works with The Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute as part of its corporate citizenship initiative, “Skills to Succeed,” dedicating voluntary support and a core team of professionals who are helping the Institute to equip people with the skills to become patient navigators. Accenture has provided $400,000 in scholarships for training patient navigators for the period 2011-2015 and has granted $750,000 to PNI to help the organization roll out a patient navigator selection, skills-building and job readiness program in 35 locations across the United States.
Learn more about this pilot program and Accenture’s Insight Driven Health.
About the Highmark Foundation
The Highmark Foundation is a private, charitable organization of Highmark Inc. that supports initiatives and programs aimed at improving community health. The Foundation’s mission is to improve the health, well-being and quality of life for individuals who reside in the communities served by Highmark Inc. The Foundation strives to support evidence-based programs that impact multiple counties and work collaboratively to leverage additional funding to achieve replicable models. For more information, visit www.highmarkfoundation.org.
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with more than 319,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. Through its Skills to Succeed corporate citizenship initiative, Accenture is equipping more than 700,000 people around the world with the skills to get a job or build a business. The company generated net revenues of US$30 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2014. Its home page is www.accenture.com.
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