Improving Access to Care in Milwaukee
February 12, 2019
Emergency departments across the country are overwhelmed by the overuse and misuse of their resources for non-emergent care needs, mostly from Medicaid, low-income, and uninsured patients.
This couldn’t be truer for Milwaukee County, where nearly 22 percent of residents live at or below the federal poverty line. Unaware of the community clinics and safety-net providers available in their areas, this group of vulnerable individuals continued to turn to the ED for care. At one point in time, nearly half of all ED visits at hospitals throughout the county were from Medicaid or uninsured patients for primary care treatable conditions.
Since its creation in 2007, The Milwaukee Health Care Partnership (MHCP), a public/private consortium dedicated to improving healthcare for low income, underserved populations in Milwaukee County, has worked tirelessly to capture and serve those individuals who frequently fall through the cracks of the healthcare system.
As part of its efforts, MHCP approached MyHealthDirect to help connect patients to the appropriate provider. Using our digital care coordination platform, care managers within Milwaukee area hospitals can now search for local safety-net clinic providers, look up available appointment dates and times, and schedule the appointment on the spot, ensuring patients are discharging with a confirmed, booked follow-up appointment with a primary care provider. As a result of this collaboration, vulnerable individuals now have a choice when it comes to their care—in terms of who they see, when they see them, and where.
The collaboration between MHCP and MyHealthDirect has resulted in improved outcomes for Milwaukee County residents, with patients typically being connected to a new provider within 7-10 days. Local hospitals have also benefited, due to the 44 percent drop in unnecessary ED utilization for patients who have booked a follow-up appointment through MyHealthDirect and attended it. To date, our scheduling platform has now helped to connect more than 50,000 vulnerable and underserved patients to primary care physicians and establish a health home for ongoing care management. When it comes to things like chronic diseases, the importance of having a primary care provider to see for ongoing treatment is not only life-saving, as it preempts catastrophic health events due to neglect, it also improves the quality of life by enabling the patient to stay up-to-date on their medications and treatment plans.
It is our hope that the success of this program in Milwaukee will act as a blueprint for other communities across the country that want to improve access to care for their most vulnerable citizens. At the end of the day it is about helping people feel empowered to get the care they need and show them that they are not alone in navigating the sometimes-difficult healthcare ecosystem.