Finding new ways to reduce pressure on our emergency departments

Finding new ways to reduce pressure on our emergency departments

29 April, 2022

With the growing demands on our emergency departments (ED), the importance of ED divergence is critical in primary care to allow for resources to be allocated where they are needed most. Based on current usage, approximately 2,800 ED presentations and 360 ambulance trips are expected to have been avoided in the EMPHN region with the My Emergency Doctor After Hours (MED AH) service over an 18-month period.

In 2019, Eastern Melbourne PHN (EMPHN) commissioned My Emergency Doctor (MED) to provide free semi-urgent to urgent after-hours telehealth consultations to patients living within the EMPHN catchment, including residents living in Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs). Doctors provide online emergency consultations, provide prescription, as well as x-ray and pathology referrals. EMPHN was the first PHN Australia-wide to pilot the service.

MED AH service improves access to after-hours medical care, particularly for isolated populations in eastern and north-eastern Melbourne where there is limited access to after-hours clinics and home visiting doctors. The service helps prevent avoidable presentations among children, older people and people living in urban fringe growth areas.

The MED AH service has successfully treated 8402 patients from January 2020 to June 2021. The average MED waiting time being 14 minutes, less than industry averages for GP / Specialists, other telehealth services and Victorian emergency departments.

A recent evaluation conducted by EMPHN identified significant economic benefits from the MED AH service, with a return on investment of $1.93 for every $1 spent on this program.

From a survey of 1084 MED users, 48% of callers would have gone to ED or called an ambulance. MED was able to manage 73% of these patients in situ, enabling 358 ED presentations and 54 ambulance trips to be avoided. MED was also able to identify 15 additional patients who required ED assessment that would have delayed access to care. A high proportion of patients recommend or would use the service again (99%).

For more information on the after-hours services EMPHN commissions including localised after-hours programs, see here