Acknowledging some trepidation from sending patients away from ERs at HCA hospitals, including many uninsured and underinsured patients, Price said, I was shocked that we didnt get some kind of complaint. She said just the opposite happened and that other hospitals in the area have begun doing the same thing.
Under the program, a physician or specially trained nurse during an initial medical screening classifies an ER patient as immediate or emergent, urgent, or non-emergent or non-urgent. Non-emergent and non-urgent patients are shunted off to the registration department, where they can decide to stay for treatment but only if they pay. Patients with insurance must pay their insurance co-payment or deductible. Patients without insurance must pay a $150 facility fee up front. Non-emergent and non-urgent who decline to pay then leave without further treatment. Price said some 40% of ER visits at HCAs Gulf Coast hospitals were classified as non-emergent or non-urgent, and only 1% of those decided to stay and pay for treatment.
This isnt about cash, Price said, Its about capacity and waiting time. Its about spending the right resources on the right patients.
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