HMH Announces New Emergency Triage Program for Medicare Patients

Innovative new model allows Medicare beneficiaries to choose options for emergency care other than a hospital Emergency Department

Hackensack Meridian Health announced that its Emergency Medical Services (EMS) programs at Hackensack University Medical Center and JFK University Medical Center are participating in the new Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport (ET3) pilot program. ET3 is an innovative new healthcare delivery model established by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that provides greater flexibility to patients and EMS crews to address emergency healthcare needs of Medicare beneficiaries following a call to 9-1-1. Hackensack Meridian Health was selected by CMS to participate in this new five-year model pilot program.

Under the new voluntary model, patients with certain injuries and illnesses can choose to be transported to an alternative partner, such as an urgent care clinic rather than a hospital emergency department. They may also choose to receive telehealth care by a qualified health care provider where they are located at the time of the 9-1-1 call. Everything needed to conduct the telehealth visit is provided by EMS.

Only certain medical concerns are being included in the program. By only offering these services for minor injuries and medical problems, there is less risk that a serious condition will be missed.

“This program strives to improve quality of care and be more efficient by avoiding unnecessary transport to the emergency department for certain patients with less severe conditions,” said Amie Thornton, president, chief hospital executive, JFK University Medical Center.

“The Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport program will allow Medicare beneficiaries in Hackensack University Medical Center’s and JFK University Medical Center’s EMS service areas to get the most appropriate urgent and emergency care at the right time and place,” said Mark Sparta, president, northern region, chief hospital executive, Hackensack University Medical Center.

Responding to 911 Calls more Efficiently

When a patient with a medical problem or their advocate calls 9-1-1, the EMS providers are required to take the patient to the closest appropriate hospital emergency department, even if they may not ultimately need emergency medical treatment at a hospital. When this happens, patients may incur higher out-of-pocket costs, and they may also use limited hospital bed space, resulting in longer wait times for all patients in need of emergency care.

The Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport Model enables emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics, and nurses who provide EMS services at Hackensack Meridian Health to offer a person in need of less serious medical attention other options. Patients can choose to go to an urgent care or be treated through telehealth where they are, or if they prefer, they can still choose to be taken to the closest appropriate emergency department.

“Our EMTs, paramedics, and nurses receive special training to identify injuries and illnesses appropriate for the ET3 model program,” said Mark Bober, director, JFKUMC EMS. HUMC EMS medical director, Dr. Shaun Patterson, and JFKUMC EMS medical director, Dr. Howard Felderman, are responsible for overseeing the ET3 model protocols. “We reviewed data from hundreds of illnesses and injuries, and specifically chose those with very low risk of hospital admission,” said Dr. Patterson. Dr. Felderman said, “Our specially trained crews know that if there are any concerns for a patient’s safety, transport to the closest appropriate emergency department is still recommended.”

“Our hope,” said Michelle Kobayashi, director, HUMC EMS, “is that the ET3 Model will allow patients and their families to choose the care setting that is safest, most convenient, and least expensive.”

There are no additional costs to Medicare participants to use the Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport Program. Patients are responsible for whatever portion of a Medicare claim they would normally have to pay.

Participation in the Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport Program is completely voluntary, and patients can choose to be transported to the emergency department instead of urgent care or a telemedicine visit.

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