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Concussions are all over the news. Here are 3 ways to better manage the cases in your market.

December 18, 2018

    The recent spotlight on concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in professional sports, and the resulting pressure placed on leagues like the National Football League, has raised general awareness for these injuries and created an environment in which more people may seek care for head injuries. This has resulted in a national increase in volumes at the main points of entry to the health system, such as the ED.

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    Here are three "no regrets" strategies to optimize concussion care and position your organization to manage this growing trend.

    1. Educate potential patients on where to seek care for suspected concussions

    CDC reported a 47% increase in TBI-related ED visits from 2007 to 2013. This growth stems partly from patients' assumption that the ED is the appropriate site of care for every TBI-related injury.

    Educate key stakeholders (athletes, parents, athletic trainers, coaches, etc.) about concussion and TBI symptoms to better equip them to choose the appropriate site of care for a given injury. This community education can reduce unnecessary ED utilization and drive volumes to more appropriate sites of care, such as primary care offices and urgent care centers.

    Programs like the Concussion Legacy Foundation offer a wide variety of concussion education programs tailored to youth athletes and adult stakeholders. These resources can help you teach your community about concussion symptoms and how to seek treatment.

    2. Strengthen the PCP-specialist relationship

    For years, health care providers have struggled to recruit neurologists. The negative effects of this shortage (longer wait times, fewer available appointments, etc.) have been exacerbated by an influx of concussion patients who do not need a neurologist or who could be treated elsewhere first.

    To address this issue, some organizations have strengthened their primary care physician (PCP)-specialist referral relationships. In these set-ups, neurologists provide decision support to PCPs, rather than seeing every concussion patient themselves. With that support, PCPs, who are not as specialized in understanding the symptoms and treatment of brain injuries, can more selectively and appropriately refer TBI patients to neurologists. This approach helps ensure neurologists can focus on patients who truly need their expertise. 

    3. Use telehealth as an access strategy

    Concussion treatment is largely based on self-management, so it's also important to give patients the support and access to ongoing care needed for proper care management. Virtual health options offer a way to communicate with concussion patients treating their symptoms at home. This can minimize unnecessary volumes at your primary and urgent care clinics, and help connect patients with limited physical access to ongoing care.

    For instance, using telemedicine to assess and treat concussions allowed Dr. Cydne Markmann from the Spine Institute Northwest to reduce diagnosis time, ED visits, in-office follow ups, and overall costs for her patients. Providing this type of consultation also increased access for a population who lacked access to proximal specialty services. This strategy could be similarly well-received by patients in other rural areas. 

    CDC estimates that 2.8 million TBIs occur each year. As the public's awareness of concussions continues to rise, it is imperative that provider organizations put the proper mechanisms in place to effectively manage the rise of TBIs in their patient base.


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