Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, along with Oneida and Herkimer County Medical Societies launched a campaign last year to curb potentially avoidable emergency room visits. The move would help lower the number of trips to the ER. Overcrowding isn't a direct cause of people coming in for conditions like sore throats, or colds - it is due to bigger health issues - there's no doubt a sore throat and cold can be handled somewhere else.
"We had found that about 40% of ER visits were potentially avoidable," says Dr. Frank Dubeck, "so we did this ad campaign, educating people, a little comedic, poking fun at people going to the ER for a stuffy nose."
Dr. Dubeck of Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield says he's seen some positive results comparing numbers before the campaign to those after.
"What we found was ER use was flat, so you might say there was no effect but the trend had been for ER use to continue, so we flattened the curve."
Overall Dr. Dubeck says if you can, see your primary care physician first (unless it's an actual emergency) As treatment in the ER can be costly and timely. Dr. Dubeck says the question has been raised - in reference to primary care staying flat - of whether doctors have reached their limit and can't see new patients. Dubeck says we're in a primary care crisis nationally, but there are efforts to change that. Along with continuing its campaign this year, one thing Excellus is working on, along with others in the industry, is the medical home.
"In the medical home model, the doctor is now responsible for a population, so if you don't come in for two years are should be, he's got people going through their records saying 'hey, you haven't been here, we see you haven't been in, would you like to schedule an appointment?' It's also, instead of the doctor being the only one to deliver care, he's more like the quarterback of the team."
The model makes it so it's easier to make same day appointments, deal with issues over the phone, and have others able to treat patients, not just the doctor. And he while the model is still new, initial data shows it's better quality care and more efficient. Here at home, Dr. Dubeck says Faxton St. Luke's primary care physicians are medical home certified, Bassett is working on certifying their primary care facilities, and he says Excellus is working with a facility in the Adirondacks to put the model in place.