With sick season now in high gear, area emergency departments are likely to be overwhelmed by patients. But nearly half of costly emergency visits are unnecessary and could be handled by a primary care physician.
Sixty percent of avoidable emergency department visits take place in ten Milwaukee zip codes with the highest rate of poverty, according to a study by the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership. The vast majority of the population in these zip codes are uninsured, underinsured or on Medicaid.
Progressive Community Health Centers, formerly Westside Healthcare Association, provides a quality, cost-effective alternative to the emergency department.
Through their Hillside Family Health Center and Lisbon Avenue Health Center clinics, Progressive reaches people in six of these zip codes and provides service to all, regardless of their personal financial situation.
A rough estimate of the avoidable emergency department expense in 2007-2008 for low-income patients was a staggering $80,000,000. On average, one emergency department visit costs $800, excluding physician fees. A comprehensive visit to a primary care doctor at a Progressive clinic is less than a quarter of an emergency department visit.
What’s more, at Progressive a patient receives more extensive services than an emergency room visit, where only the urgent need or illness is treated. At the Hillside and Lisbon Avenue clinics that first visit is the start of a relationship with a primary care physician. Practitioners are dedicated to the immediate care of incoming patients, but also address the other health concerns and various lifestyle issues that affect long-term health and overall wellbeing.
The clinics currently serve over 8,500 patients. With the recent hiring of additional physicians, capacity has increased. “It is important for the community to know that we are here to serve them. We provide high quality, personalized health care and won’t turn anyone away,” said Jenni Sevenich, CEO of Progressive.
The Hillside and Lisbon Avenue clinics’ comprehensive services include: adult medicine, pediatric medicine, women’s health, dental care, financial counseling, case management, and referral services.