CareScope Project to Promote Health Care Access, Reduce ER Visits

The state of Minnesota has funded a project to reduce emergency room utilization by connecting patients with primary care. The Department of Human Services has selected Data Futures to manage project services and to implement its CareScope community health software.

Knoxville, TN, June 11, 2008 --( Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) has issued Data Futures a $700,000 grant to fund a year-long web-based primary care access pilot project in the state’s two largest counties.

Data Futures was selected to manage the pilot project and to implement its web-based CareScope community health software to facilitate processes. CareScope will provide the basis for connecting users and sharing data. It will be used for scheduling clinic appointments, related transportation logistics, connecting potentially eligible patients with Minnesota Health Care Programs, maintaining the patient database and generating accountability reporting.

“The project’s aim,” said Brian Osberg, assistant human services commissioner for health care, “is to provide patients access to a health care home where they will receive the appropriate level of care and to reduce use of the ER for non-emergency services.”

An enterprise-level CareScope software license will allow for any organization, facility, site location and unlimited number of users within the pilot study and geographic limits of Hennepin and Ramsey counties to use the software. Also included are software and data interfaces to minimize duplication of data entry within and between hospital participants and DHS.

The project will center on diverting patients, who are uninsured or enrolled in state-funded health care programs, from hospital emergency departments to primary care and specialty clinics as an alternative to non-emergency use of the ER.

Patients will not be turned away from the emergency department; they will be given a less expensive alternative that takes into account the patient’s culture and language at a time and location that is convenient for them. There is also funding to assist patients who have transportation barriers.

Research in other states indicated that 20 percent of patients visiting the emergency department did not require emergency care and another 20 percent could have been treated in a primary care setting.

Quality First Healthcare Consulting has been engaged by Data Futures as the external project manager. QFHC is in discussion with prospective hospital partners and will also recruit local personnel for on-site project management and other project staffing needs. Community networks that manage care for the underserved, including Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers, the Neighborhood Healthcare Network and Portico will play a role as well.

Accountability reporting will compare the number of non-emergency visits and repeat visits to hospital emergency rooms for the period before the project gets underway and at the end of the year-long pilot. The project will be evaluated by DHS in consultation with the Minnesota Hospital Association.

Data Futures, Inc.
Charleen Combs