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Unnecessary hospitalizations straining the healthcare system

Last Updated Jun 21, 2016 at 8:08 am PDT

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The findings paint a picture of a healthcare system on the verge of crisis

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Unnecessary visits to the ER are putting a huge strain on our hospitals according to a new report that points to a healthcare system clogged by chronic disease.

The findings paint a picture of a system on the verge of crisis, with illnesses like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) accounting for the largest number of return visits to emergency departments and generating the highest volume of hospital readmissions.

“We’re often providing the wrong healthcare in the wrong place,” says Stephen Samis, vice president of programs for the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement, which has found that patients end up seeking care in the ER to manage their chronic illnesses because more appropriate care isn’t available in the community.

“Our work highlights how we can help people living with chronic diseases like COPD to manage their care at home rather than making unnecessary and costly visits to the hospital,” he tells NEWS 1130.

“If you actually work with patients and family members to understand the disease, give them an action plan for their care, provide self-management education and psychosocial support, we see that you can decrease hospitalizations for something like COPD by up to 80 per cent.”

Samis says the same “home patient, family-based” approach to care could also be used for other chronic conditions, such as congestive heart failure.

“This is about a shift we need to make in Canadians healthcare overall — less reliance on hospitals-based stays and more care in the community, helping people manage their illnesses better in the home,” he explains.

“Hospitals always have an important place, but we are seeing a lot of unnecessary hospitalizations where people are actually able to get better care and manage their illness better at home.”

Samis says a change in focus from acute care to a more patient-centred approach for chronic illnesses like COPD across Canada would also mean substantial savings. “Even just over the next five years, we would see 70,000 fewer emergency department visits, 44,000 hospitalizations would be avoided, and it would save about $700-million in direct hospital costs.”

Samis says Canada cannot afford to continue with such high rates of hospitalization for chronic conditions. “Ultimately, it’s just not sustainable. We really need to come up with more cost effective and better quality ways of caring for people with these conditions.”