Hudson Headwaters Health Network is establishing a new program to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits by children and teens.
“We’re hoping to educate patients on the best place to receive care for their condition,” said Cyndi Nassivera-Reynolds, vice president for transformation and clinical quality for Hudson Headwaters, which operates 16 primary care and specialty health centers in Warren, Washington, Saratoga, Essex, Clinton and Hamilton counties.
The program will promote the use of urgent care centers, when appropriate, as an alternative to a hospital emergency room.
Urgent care centers offer evening and weekend hours to treat walk-in patients with unexpected illnesses or injuries that are not life-threatening.
Hudson Headwaters operates urgent care centers at Health Center at Broad Street in Glens Falls and Warrensburg Health Center in Warrensburg.
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Urgent care centers are less costly for insurance companies and government health care programs, and co-payments are typically less for the patient.
The program dovetails with an effort Hudson Headwaters and Glens Falls Hospital, through Adirondack Health Institute, are part of in collaboration with other regional health care providers to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits, among other measures.
Participating health care organizations will receive state funding for capital improvements and collaborative initiatives as they reach various goals for reducing Medicare costs.
The new Hudson Headwaters program, funded with a $150,000 grant from RCHN Community Health Foundation, will focus on three age groups, each with specialized conditions.
An asthma educator will work with families with children 5 and younger.
“Kids under the age of 5, typically their parents are bringing them to the emergency room because they’re having difficulty breathing, maybe they have asthma or they develop croup, and mom and dad gets scared and they want to make sure their child is OK,” said Nassivera-Reynolds.
Another focus will be children ages 6-12 who have minor injuries.
“They’re being brought to the emergency room because they need X-rays to see if they have broken a bone, or maybe they need some stitches because they’ve cut themselves,” she said. “For that group of people, a lot of what we’re going to do is education about what we can and can’t do in our urgent care centers.”
The third group is teenagers experiencing anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts.
A Hudson Headwater employee will attend specialized training in Albany in September on how to help teens in crisis.
“So we’re really going to have this person well-trained to deal with actually those kind of patients,” Nassivera-Reynolds said.
The program will make an initial mailing to all Hudson Headwaters patients, informing them about the availability of urgent care.
A “transition coach” will mail additional information and make telephone calls to families that records show have made unnecessary emergency room visits in the past, and some families will be invited to join case management groups.
The $150,000 grant pays for the equivalent of two full-time employees, including the hiring of the new full-time transition coach.
Various current employees, including a pediatrician, will handle aspects of the program.
The grant might be renewed for a second year, depending on the outcome of the program, said Nassivera-Reynolds.