Several years ago, I was working with a client reviewing quality and cost measures when we identified an individual who was a “frequent flyer,” or high utilizer, of the emergency department (ED). Upon further investigation, we learned that this person was seeking shelter and a hot meal, and he found the ED to be the best place to access both.
Each time this individual visited the ED and the providers asked him what was ailing him, he would vaguely declare, “I have pain!” It took many conversations to get to the root of his suffering: homelessness.
His misuse of the ED posed a problem to the healthcare providers who tended to his needs each time he paid a visit because it inflated the cost, or the medical spend, for this patient. They were running unnecessary tests on his behalf.