What We're Reading: A New Approach to Care for Super-Utilizers

What we're reading, July 4, 2016: a hospital is offering free housing to get super-utilizers out of the emergency room; campaigns for patients to gain access to stem cell treatments are gaining momentum; and why hospital/physician integration and consolidation probably won't lower costs.

The University of Illinois Hospital is offering free housing for frequent users of the emergency room. The hospital is using $250,000 of its own money on a pilot to get patients who are considered “super-utilizers” out of the emergency room and into an apartment, reported NPR. The program provides 25 patients with an apartment and a case manager to help them schedule doctor’s appointments instead of using the emergency room. Instead of paying $3000 per day for hospital care, the hospital is only paying $1000 a month for an apartment.

Campaigns for patients to gain access to stem cell treatments are gaining momentum across the country. According to STAT, a bill was introduced in Washington, DC, for the FDA to grant conditional approval for stem cell treatments without data from Phase 3 trials, and a state agency in California is enlisting patients to push for the federal regulatory process to be sped up. However, critics warn that faster approvals could undermine the FDA’s authority. The FDA maintains that stem cell treatment for most conditions still remains “largely unproven.”

The hope that hospital/physician integration will lower healthcare expenses is probably wishful thinking, writes physician Peter Ubel, MD, in a piece for Forbes. While Medicare is encouraging consolidation into entities like accountable care organizations and integration similar to that of the Kaiser Permanente system, it could end up costing a lot of money when hospitals and physicians join forces. The primary reason physicians join hospitals is not to achieve greater efficiencies, but to give them greater negotiating power with insurers, which results in higher costs for patients.