The rising number of low-acuity patients appearing at emergency departments in Tasmania has revealed the need for accurate compensation, according to a new study conducted at the University of Tasmania.
The study investigated why an increasing number of low-acuity self-referring patients in Tasmania’s North West are accessing health services for non-life threatening conditions. It also touches on the implications this has on costs, funding, infrastructure and staffing.
The findings indicate that patients view emergency departments as the most efficient way for people to get care, offering all necessary treatments and diagnostic services in one place, including x-ray and pathology. There is no other destination in the rural community that offers the same.
Co-author of the research paper, Colleen Cheek from the Rural Clinical School, said that her research shows “that investing resources to re-direct patients to GPs is not likely to alter demand for ED care in this region unless the alternative service also offers point of care convenience. In a rural area with a smaller population replicating these resources is likely to be more expensive.”
She identified that if low-acuity patient numbers visiting emergency departments continues to grow, it will have implications for the region’s hospitals in terms of cost, funding, infrastructure and staffing. Regional hospitals may not look as efficient as metropolitan hospitals because of the disproportionate numbers, and this can affect future funding.
“We hope this paper will start a conversation about how important emergency departments are for the North West region and that financial support should reflect this going forward,” Ms. Cheek concluded.
Read more here: University of Tasmania.