Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Working Together to Connect Care: a metropolitan tertiary emergency department and community care program

Debra Harcourt A C , Clancy McDonald B , Leonie Cartlidge-Gann A and John Burke B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Metro North Hospital and Health Service, Patient Flow Unit, James Mayne Building, Butterfield Street, Brisbane, Qld 4006, Australia. Email: leonie.cartlidge-gann@health.qld.gov.au

B Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Metro North Hospital and Health Service, Emergency Department, James Mayne Building, Butterfield Street, Brisbane, Qld 4006, Australia. Email: clancy.mcdonald@health.qld.gov.au; john.burke@health.qld.gov.au

C Corresponding author. Email: debra.harcourt@health.qld.gov.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16236
Submitted: 26 October 2016  Accepted: 19 December 2016   Published online: 2 March 2017

Abstract

Objective Frequent attendance by people to an emergency department (ED) is a global concern. A collaborative partnership between an ED and the primary and community healthcare sectors has the potential to improve care for the person who frequently attends the ED. The aims of the Working Together to Connect Care program are to decrease the number of presentations by providing focused community support and to integrate all healthcare services with the goal of achieving positive, patient-centred and directed outcomes.

Methods A retrospective analysis of ED data for 2014 and 2015 was used to ascertain the characteristics of the potential program cohort. The definition used to identify a ‘frequent attendee’ was more than four presentations to an ED in 1 month. This analysis was used to develop the processes now known as the Working Together to Connect Care program. This program includes participant identification by applying the definition, flagging of potential participants in the ED IT system, case review and referral to community services by ED staff, case conferencing facilitated within the ED and individualised, patient centred case management provided by government and non-government community services.

Results Two months after the date of commencement of the Working Together to Connect Care program there are 31 active participants in the program: 10 are on the Mental Health pathway, and one is on the No Consent pathway. On average there are three people recruited to the program every week. The establishment of a new program for supporting frequent attendees of an ED has had its challenges. Identifying systems that support people in their community has been an early positive outcome of this project.

Conclusion It is expected that data regarding the number of ED presentations, potential fiscal savings and client outcomes will be available in 2017.

What is known about the topic? Frequent attendance at EDs is a global issue and although the number of ‘super users’ is small compared with non-frequent users, the presentations are high. People in the frequent attendee group will often seek care from multiple EDs for, in the main, mental health issues and substance abuse. Furthermore, frequent ED users are vulnerable and experience higher mortality, hospital admissions and out-patient visits than non-frequent users. Aggressive and assertive outreach, intense coordination of services by integrated care teams, and the need for non-medical resources, such as supportive housing, have positive outcomes for this group of people.

What does this paper add? This study uses international research findings in an Australian setting to provide a testing of the generalisability of an assertive and collaborative ED and community case management approach for supporting people who frequent a metropolitan ED.

What are the implications for practitioners? The chronicling of a process undertaken to affect change in a health care setting supports practitioners when developing processes for this cohort across different ED contexts.


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