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A University of Rhode Island (URI) professor founded a free health clinic staffed mostly by nurses and student volunteers as a cost-efficient alternative to emergency departments. His subsequent study, just published in the Journal of Community Health, indicates that walk-in clinics such as this one save $1.28 million in future healthcare costs. Much of the savings comes from avoiding ED visits for routine illnesses.
The clinic is located in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Providence. The Clinica Esperanza/Hope Clinic Emergency Room Diversion (CHEER) clinic was established there in August 2012 for non-urgent health problems such as the stomach illnesses, colds, the flu, urinary tract infections, and skin problems. It provides vaccinations, including flu shots. Members of the clinic staff treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. The facility also offers a clinic for women, diabetes support groups, and healthy lifestyle and nutrition education programs. The clinic serves only uninsured persons who don’t have a primary care doctor. The primary care clinic sees continuing patients Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m. The walk-in CHEER clinic for uninsured patients is open Monday through Friday from 2 to 7 p.m.
The savings come from a study of 256 patients during the CHEER clinic’s first five months. Every service received a score that represented how much money would be saved on preventive care in the future. “When we incorporated the value of preventive services, we found an estimated savings of $1.28 million in future healthcare costs,’’ says Annie De Groot, MD, the clinic’s volunteer medical director. “From there, we calculated a return on the investment of $34 per $1.’’ DeGroot also serves as URI’s research professor and director of the Institute for Immunology and Informatics.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and the United Way of Rhode Island support the clinic and its work. For more money-saving and efficiency ideas for your emergency department, see our monthly ED Management publication.