Watch CBS News

Health System To Open Clinic For Frequent ER Users

GRAND RAPIDS (WWJ/AP) - A Grand Rapids hospital is creating a new clinic to screen patients who use emergency departments as if they're walk-in clinics.

Spectrum Health said in a statement that its Medical Group Center for Integrative Medicine is scheduled to open Monday in Grand Rapids. The idea is to help frequent emergency department users get primary care and other outpatient help instead.

The center is a response to an issue identified by emergency and addiction medicine specialist R. Corey Waller in 2008. During that year, approximately 950 patients were identified as visiting Butterworth and Blodgett hospital EDs greater than 10 times, including one individual who was there 226 times in 12 months. The health system says those patients had more than 20,000 total visits costing $40 million to $50 million.

The patients were mainly young, healthy people with hard to diagnose conditions, psychiatric illness, chronic pain or addiction as their major medical issues. A pilot program for the clinic showed the reduction of ER visits among the patients by up to 85 percent.

For the first few months, the center will be evaluating identified high-frequency visitors from Butterworth and Blodgett hospital ERs, then will accept referrals from other hospitals. Meanwhile, Waller will meet with directors from local hospitals to discuss high-frequency patients visiting multiple ERs who would benefit from being seen sooner.

Targeted patients are now being contacted and appointments are being lined up in the new clinic. The patients will get a one hour check up with a doctor and a visit with a case manager.

Patients will then be seen for a three to six month period to monitor how well they follow their health plan. When treatment is stable and the patient has successfully followed up with a primary care physician, the patient will be transferred into a primary care office.

It's estimated the new program could save up to $15 million a year. Find more information at

TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.