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Millions of patients visit the emergency department each year, and outpatient follow-up care is often recommended. Unfortunately, rates of compliance remain poor. ER patient follow-up is important for any additional testing, and to ensure the initial diagnosis was correct and treatment was effective. Patients who skip lab work or aftercare appointments are more likely to later loop back to the emergency department.

Individuals are responsible for taking an active role in their healthcare, but medical providers have an ethical and legal duty to educate patients and ensure there are systems in place to encourage ER patient follow-up.

Reasons ER Patients Fail to Follow-up

There are many reasons patients skip aftercare appointments or essential lab tests, and it can be dangerous to their health. When patients are discharged from the emergency department, they’re provided with health plan instructions, but there may still be barriers preventing ER patient follow-up, including issues with transportation, cost, and low health literacy.

Patients who lack an established primary care physician often face difficulties in securing timely appointments; this can be especially true for Medicaid recipients. In particular, non-English speaking patients need special attention, as well as those with neurological conditions, or social challenges.

Encouraging ER Patient Follow-up

Scheduling patients for the continuation of care prior to their discharge naturally improves follow-up attendance. ER patients who receive help in finding an appropriate clinician are more likely to seek care. Additionally, IT tools can be used to make ER patient follow-up more convenient. Another option for consideration would be to implement an emergency department to primary care access program, in order to smooth the transition process and minimize the risk of future hospitalizations.

ER patient follow-up improves patient outcomes. Patients need to meet providers halfway, but an effective aftercare plan ensures patients are healthier and reduces the burden on emergency department staff. From reminder calls to health education, medical providers can employ patient engagement techniques that make a difference to the people they serve.