Projects aim to reduce visits to EDs during peak volumes

In April 2008, the state of Colorado was awarded $1,816,199 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for two projects designed to reduce the use of hospital emergency departments. In Colorado Springs, patients who request nonemergency services during evening and weekend hours at Memorial Hospital are being provided with referrals, education, and transportation vouchers to clinics. The hope is that the clinics will become a "medical home" for these patients, so they can receive ongoing preventive care.

The second project involves expanding clinic space and offering patients extended hours at Valley-Wide Health Systems in the San Luis Valley, during periods of peak volume at local hospital emergency departments.

The projects will enable Colorado Medicaid to more effectively meet the preventive health care needs of its Medicaid population and to reduce health care costs for the state, according to Sandeep Wadhwa, MD, Medicaid director and chief medical officer with the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

"There's a shortage of primary care providers in Colorado; particularly in our rural areas," he notes. "Our Community Health Centers provide a critically important source of primary care."

Primary care providers are being supported with provider rate increases, and Colorado also has implemented a Medical Home pilot to expand primary care participation and access to care. "We also know that this will improve continuity of care and health outcomes," Dr. Wadhwa adds.