For almost 20 years, a little-known program has been quietly extending our integrated approach to care to out-of-network emergency departments and hospitals where our members are receiving care —saving time, money, patient stress, and maybe even lives.
Our Emergency Patient Resources and Options (EPRO) program is a courtesy service for emergency departments and hospitals outside our system that are caring for Kaiser Permanente patients. By calling a toll-free number, 24/7, a treating physician at a non-Kaiser Permanente facility can talk to one of our Emergency Physicians who has ready access to the patient’s online medical record. The physicians can discuss details about the patient’s medical history, current medications, and recent tests and treatments. Our specialists can also be consulted when appropriate.
“Often these conversations can expedite care and avoid repetitive and costly testing that is stressful for the patient and the patient’s family,” says Keith Leyden, MD, EPRO medical director. “EPRO can assist in the transfer of stable patients needing hospital admission to a nearby facility where Kaiser Permanente medical staff works. We can also assist in the transfer of a patient needing services and care that are beyond the capabilities of the treating facility.”
Bring patients back to our own medical system ensures that they’ll be cared for by providers who may know them and can easily communicate and collaborate on their care. If a patient is transferred from an out-of-network hospital, EPRO handles all the details and there’s no cost to the patient.
Spreading the word about EPRO
EPRO currently handles 500 to 600 patient cases per month, with interactions ranging from calls for medical records, to arranging outpatient follow up in lieu of hospitalization, to coordinating patients’ transfer and admission to a Kaiser Permanente contracted facility.
“For non-contracted hospitals and emergency departments, calling EPRO is voluntary,” says Dr. Leyden. “Most physicians call because they find EPRO helps them care for their patients and make well-informed treatment decisions.”
Alerting physicians to the availability of EPRO is an ongoing process, says NaTasha Green, program manager of EPRO and the Consulting Nurse Service. “We give presentations at hospital staff meetings around the state to introduce our services and explain the program’s value. We’re specifically working on expanding our visibility in Central and Northwest Washington.”
Dramatic improvements coming soon
New software is being implemented in the next few months that will dramatically improve the EPRO team’s awareness of Kaiser Permanente patients at out-of-network emergency departments and hospitals, says Dr. Leyden.
“The new program will alert us in real time when our patients check in to an emergency department or hospital anywhere in Washington and Oregon,” he says. “This will greatly increase our ability to proactively identify our patients seeking care, and to offer assistance to the physicians who are caring for them. Kaiser Permanente Northwest has been using this tool for several years and has found it powerful and invaluable.”
Building rapport is an added benefit
Emergency department physicians and the EPRO team have developed a collegial relationship over time, says Dr. Leyden. “The program gives the physicians a glimpse into the integrated way we care for our patients at Kaiser Permanente, and collaborating with them tends to break down barriers and build rapport. Also, most hospitals are pretty full these days, so physicians are usually glad when we can expedite their patients’ care and can repatriate patients back into our system.”