A new data-sharing initiative launched by six Northern California hospitals — including two members of America’s Essential Hospitals — aims to improve patient care and reduce costs associated with patients who frequently visit emergency departments (EDs).

About 40 percent of California ED visits are for non-urgent issues that could be treated through primary care, with some patients checking into EDs as frequently as three times a week. Such patients often visit multiple hospitals, resulting in unnecessary readmissions, repeated tests, and conflicting medical advice. Each year, visits such as these cost health providers across the United States about $38 billion.

The six hospitals, which are part of Sutter Health and Alameda Health System, have implemented PreManage, a shared database of ED patients’ health records, to promote consistent care across providers. The system identifies frequent ED visitors and alerts all six partner hospitals when such patients check into any of their EDs. It also allows hospitals to coordinate care with local health clinics and social service organizations, ensuring that patients are treated in the appropriate setting. This is the first ED data sharing initiative in Northern California.

Hospitals participating in the initiative include:

  • Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Ashby Campus (Sutter Health);
  • Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Summit Campus (Sutter Health);
  • Eden Medical Center (Sutter Health);
  • Highland Hospital (Alameda Health System), an essential hospital;
  • San Leandro Hospital (Alameda Health System), an essential hospital; and
  • Sutter Delta Medical Center (Sutter Health).

PreManage has proved effective in reducing costs and improving quality of care in health systems. For example, hospitals in Washington and Oregon saw a reduction in ED visits by frequent users and a 10 percent decrease in Medicaid use after implementing the system.

Alameda Health System reported that since Highland Hospital implemented the system in April, it was able to identify 2,000 Alta Bates Summit Medical Center ED patients who also visited Highland’s ED. Of those patients, 36 percent have visited an ED six or more times in the past 12 months.