Expanding the Role of Patient Navigation in the Emergency Department

Deploying staff to educate frequent ED utilizers and enhance care coordination

patient navigation emergency department

Frequent fliers who come into the ED for preventable, non-urgent care needs are some of the most costly and difficult patients to treat. Such patients often have chronic illnesses which are compounded by lifestyle factors such as a lack of access to transportation, healthy food, and knowledge about the health care system.

To better educate and direct patients to the most appropriate site of care, hospitals are reintroducing case managers in the emergency department with an expanded focus on patient navigation.

As organizations look to further reduce avoidable ED utilization, leaders design these navigation programs to have one of two aims: coordination or case management. Next, leaders must make decisions on navigator licensure and skillset based on organizational factors like patient mix and common causes for non-urgent ED admissions.

This research report outlines common ED-based roles designed to improve patient care coordination and provide targeted support for higher-risk patients. Review it to understand ED navigation programs across four key characteristics: patient identification, staffing credentials and responsibilities, services offered, and metrics and outcomes.

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