State Officials Hope To Ease Data Flow, Cut Emergency Care, Save Tax Dollars

Oct 16, 2013

By better communication of electronic health records, state officials hope to lower traffic at emergency rooms and save millions of dollars.  The initiative is aimed at patients known as ‘super utilizers.’

Health care’s ‘super utilizer’ is typically described as a patient who visits an emergency room ten times a year.  State Medicaid officials say about 4,400 Kentuckians fit that description.   State Public Health Commissioner Stephanie Mayfield Gibson predicts better exchange of health information can cut those numbers.

“And our efforts are to improve quality and with that improvement of quality we expect to improve outcomes and recognize some cost savings with that as well,” said Mayfield Gibson.

By giving super utilizing patients easier access to preventative and primary care, Medicaid officials said they can cut costs by 30%.  Medicaid Services Chief Medical Officer John Langefeld said it would amount to $90 million in savings. 

“Part of the assessment by the care coordination team at the local facility will be to identify those social determinants that may be undermining or underlying their use of the system historically and how to address those in an effective way," said Langefeld. "It may include transportation.  It may include housing."

Allen Brenzel, who’s Medical Director in the State Department for Behavioral Health, said computer records can help them track these patients.

"Some of these individuals, they're not seen in the same ER ten times," added Brenzel. "They're seen in ten different emergency rooms. So, they might not individually identify them as super utilizers. And, we've seen as many people as using 20 to 30 different emergency rooms in a year."

16 hospitals, and several local health departments, are participating in the initiative.