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Austin ER's Got 2,678 Visits From 9 people Over 6 Years

Austin ER's Got 2,678 Visits From 9 people Over 6 Years

Mary Ann Roser / American-Stateman

April 01, 2009

In the past six years, eight people from Austin and one from Luling racked up 2,678 emergency room visits in Central Texas, costing hospitals, taxpayers and others $3 million, according to a report from a nonprofit made up of hospitals and other providers that care for the uninsured and low-income Central Texans.

One of the nine spent more than a third of last year in the ER: 145 days. That same patient totaled 554 ER visits from 2003 through 2008.

“We looked at frequent users of emergency departments … and that’s the extreme,” said Ann Kitchen, executive director of the Integrated Care Collaboration, the group that presented the report last week to the Travis County Healthcare District board. “What we’re really trying to do is find out who’s using our emergency rooms … and find solutions.”

The health district, one of 26 members of the ICC, has long been concerned about overuse and crowding of ERs, a problem that has hit hospitals around the country.

The district is seeking ways to reduce the load on ERs by better managing where patients who don’t have a real emergency go for care, CEO and President Patricia Young Brown said. In the past couple of years, the district has expanded hours at public clinics it oversees and has financed an urgent care center, where patients who don’t have real emergencies can receive after-hours medical treatment at a lower cost to taxpayers than in an ER.

The ICC staff, meanwhile, has been gathering data so its members could learn more about the kinds of patients who use the ER.

The report that mentioned the nine high-frequency patients didn’t include reasons for all of those ER visits and didn’t identify the patients because of privacy laws. But Kitchen, a former state legislator from Austin, gave a sketch: All nine speak English; three are homeless; five are women whose average age is 40, and four are men whose average age is 50. Seven have a mental health diagnosis and eight have a drug abuse diagnosis. Kitchen said she did not know their citizenship status.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


    I know a lot of other places that $3 million can go... Maybe we wouldn't of had to fire 800 teachers and close schools is Central Texas... Please continue to work and find a solution... Thank you

  • 042_max50


    almost 6 years ago


    I don't think 'they" deserve "three hots and cot" on MY dollar for a made up, or exagerated medical condition.
    No, I don't have an answer to the problem. But as an ER nurse, I KNOW the way things currently work is NOT working.

    EMTALA says that we have to "screen" everyone and they get "stabilizing treatment". This doesn't mean they have to get everything under the sun. If more docs would look at these patients with "nothing" problems and send them home, with nothing, things would get better.

    Maslow was an idiot.

  • J0423100_max50


    almost 6 years ago


    Frequent fliers are a problem all over the country. We have one who calls ALL the time, anywhere from 3 to 20x per day. We do get very irritated about it, especially since this person has physically assaulted most of us. Generally the pt. didn't get their way about something in their life and decides to have a myriad of fake symptoms so we will come and pay attention to them and hopefully take them to one of the ER's where the pt. can get more attn. This person has had psych. evals. and was dx with anxiety. So now the pt. refuses their meds. in order to have another reason to call us. Go figure.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 6 years ago


    I work in an urban ER setting, and this happens all the time. We have people that come a minimum of 3x a week. I definately think it's a WASTE of time and money. The "3 hots and a cot" can come from another resource besides overburdened ERs. Think about it.....people sometimes wait HOURS in a waiting room in pain to get medical attention, meanwhile the frequent fliers are taking up beds. It's ridiculous. We can have a social worker talk 'til they are blue in the face and find a wealth of resources for them, but they won't listen. They won't seek help. Too bad EMTALA states that we cannot refuse them, just in case they do actually have an issue that does need to be treated.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 6 years ago


    I do not think 3 hots and a cot is a waste. Especially today when resources are hard to find and mental health issues burden the homeless. Nutrition and sleep are part of Maslow and clients who are not able or can not provide these things for themselves deserve as much help as the typical med surge patient.

  • Cross_country_trip_to_nc_175_max50


    almost 6 years ago


    The ER I worked in..we had a few frequent flyers that would call 911 got to the point that EMS 911(vollie) would go 3 or 4th due for the one lady...she finally got fined by 911 for making over 600 calls in a year for the ambo....this went on for years too...

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 6 years ago


    In the mental health field , we call this the revolving door policy - sometimes we just see people for three hots anda cot also - it's a waste oftaxpayers money

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