Over use and improper use of emergency rooms and urgent care facilities are a large drain on the budget available to the 56th Medical Group.
The 56th MDG leaders have spent a good amount of time identifying how they can help Luke Air Force Base members and their families better understand and address this issue.
“We are implementing measures we hope will make it easier to obtain appointments not only for routine care, but especially for more urgent medical needs,” said Capt. James Schuhs, 56th MDG physician assistant. “It will make it easier for members to get appointments for needs that will not result in the loss of life, limb or eyesight without immediate treatment; in other words, something not serious enough to require a trip to the emergency room or urgent care facility.”
According to the Tricare website, emergency care visits and urgent care fall into two separate categories. Emergency care is a sudden and unexpected medical condition, or the worsening of a condition that a sensible person would see as a threat to life, limb or eyesight and requires immediate treatment. ERs can be visited at any time without prior authorization but the member must contact the primary care manager within 24 hours or the next business day after receiving emergency care.
To receive urgent care a member is required to get a referral from the medical staff and visit an approved urgent care facility. Approved care facilities in the Phoenix area can be found on the United Healthcare website at www.uhcmilitarywest.com.
For those who are unsure whether or not their condition requires a visit to the ER or urgent care, the medical group has an after-hours number one can call. The after-hours representative will be a physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner. They are on call after 4 p.m. on weekdays and 24 hours a day on weekends and holidays and can be reached by calling the main appointment line at 623-856-2273.
“With a single phone call, one can obtain real-time consultation with a provider about illness or injury,” Schuhs said. “They can also help with information on how to treat it and what other steps might be appropriate such as whether to go to the emergency room or perhaps simply have you follow-up with your primary care manager the next day.”
When possible, however, the Luke AFB clinic should be a member’s first stop before seeking medical services elsewhere.
“As one of the medical providers on staff at the Luke AFB clinic, I speak for all of us when I say we are dedicated to giving our patients the very best possible healthcare,” Schuhs said. “I believe we can work together to make changes that will reduce costs and continue to provide high quality care through a robust but efficient military healthcare system.”