Tricare Regional Office West recently identified Luke as having one of the highest emergency room visit rates in Tricare’s western region. Because of the high number of emergency room visits, which average 800 to 900 a month and cost roughly $500,000 during that time, the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century set out to reduce the number of unnecessary visits and medical facility expenditures.
Family members visited the emergency room most frequently, and about 50 percent of those visits weren’t necessary.
“A random review for one week indicated that most of our beneficiaries were between ages 0 to 4 and 18 to 34 years of age,” said Maj. Edyta Haggard, 56th Medical Group group project manager.
AFSO21 held an improvement event Feb. 1 through 3, which brought together subject-matter experts from throughout the MDG.
“This event focused on military treatment facility enrollees and their patterns of emergency room visits,” Haggard said. “However, this is a national problem and efforts to reduce emergency room rates require a shift in societal behaviors.”
The MDG continuously looks for ways to enhance their service by utilizing the lean healthcare concept, according to Chief Master Sgt. Monica Hill, 56th MDG superintendent.
It teaches how to make processes better, more efficient and effective without adding personnel or additional funding.
“As we all know the Air Force, as well as the budget, is getting smaller, so medical treatment facilities must find ways to use current manpower and resources to not only meet, but exceed the needs of their patients,” she said.
The new methods consist of changes to personalized care so patients want to use the medical facility.
“It is not about temporary changes, it is a complete, fundamental shift in the way we think about our customers, our workforce and our civilian partners,” Hill said.
The process is still a work in progress and won’t launch for another three months. The MDG is hoping to see results within a nine-month period.
“We believe that by decreasing emergency room visits we can positively affect our patients, provide comprehensive primary care, avoid medication errors and increase overall patient satisfaction,” Haggard said.
“We want to be the premiere healthcare choice for our beneficiaries,” Hill said. “We want to secure their trust and empower all patients to take an active role in their healthcare.”