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After ER visit, many patients in a fog, U-M study finds

their ER team recommended they do after they left the ER. Meanwhile, 22 percent of the deficiencies in the study had to do with patients' understanding of what symptoms or changes in their condition should spur them to return to the ER.

Recently, the U-M Health System introduced a program that aims directly at this problem: the Emergency Medicine Consult/Referral Service, run by the Department of Emergency Medicine and the Physician and Consumer Communications division of Public Relations & Marketing Communications.

It is staffed by referral coordinators who follow up with ER patients by phone within 24 hours of their ER visit, to help schedule appointments with U-M physicians for specialty care if the patients' insurance allows it or make sure they know that they need to schedule an appointment elsewhere.

More than 12,000 follow-up appointments have been scheduled for recent U-M ER patients since the program began in February 2007, and 81 percent of those patients have arrived for their scheduled appointments, up from 59 percent before the program began. Appointment cancellations are also down.

Before the program began, 24 percent of U-M ER patients who needed a follow-up appointment never scheduled one. And many patients and clinicians who did try to arrange follow-up care went through a frustrating and confusing process that is repeated every day in hospitals around the country. The new call center offers a standardized, centralized way to make sure patients get scheduled to see the provider they need soon after their ER visit.

The new study involved patients from ages 18 to 83 years, 59 percent of whom were women. Nineteen percent of patients were African-American, and 68 percent were white, with the remaining percentage being other races or without a race recorded on their record. Thirty-five percent had a high school education or less. Patients were given a brief cognition test before being interviewed, to make s

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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