November 16, 2017

Alternatives to emergency room visits abound

More than 50 percent of emergency department visits are unnecessary or avoidable, meaning care could have been provided by a primary care physician or urgent care facility, according to a study from Aetna.

More than 50 percent of emergency department visits are unnecessary or avoidable, meaning care could have been provided by a primary care physician or urgent care facility, according to a study from Aetna.

Avoidable emergency room visits cost patients five times as much as the cost of treatment in an in-network clinic or doctor’s office, and may result in higher costs for Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) employees.

VUMC is offering employees new, free phone and online resources to determine whether a visit to the emergency room is appropriate or if a walk-in clinic or doctor’s office would offer effective care.

“We care about both the physical and financial health of our employees and their families. While we want you to always seek out emergency care in situations that require it, we also know that many people seek treatment in the emergency department when they could get faster, less-costly care elsewhere,” said Traci Nordberg, Chief Human Resources Officer for VUMC.

“We want to make employees aware of all their care options so that they are not only getting the best treatment for their healthcare concerns, but also the most affordable.”

Employees can call 615-875-NRSE to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nurses can help assess whether emergency care is appropriate, answer questions and direct patients to locations that provide the appropriate level of care. The online resource is accessible via the HR website.

If, after calling or visiting the website, an emergency room visit is determined to be necessary, employees are eligible to earn a $20 credit toward their health plan account. You can find the form on the dedicated page listed above.

If an employee or family member is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, calling 911 immediately is still the appropriate measure. For non-emergencies, the VUMC Health Plan offers multiple options for employees:

During work hours you can visit the Faculty/Staff Express Care clinic in Suite 112 of the Medical Arts Building. The clinic is open weekdays, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. — except on days VUMC observes holidays — and treats common illnesses, such as cold and flu. If Faculty/Staff Express Care is closed, you can go to the Occupational Health Clinic as a walk-in patient. The Occupational Health Clinic in Suite 640 of the Medical Arts Building treats work-related injuries and illnesses and is open Monday–Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

After work hours or if you’re in an offsite location:

• You can visit an in-network walk-in or after-hours urgent care clinic for as little as a $20 office visit copay. Nearly 50 clinics — including retail clinics, such as the locations inside Walgreens stores in Middle Tennessee — are part of the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network. Most are available seven days a week, and many are open after traditional business hours. You can visit the network website to find the nearest clinic or text your ZIP code to 615-908-2273 to have a list of the nearest clinics sent to your phone.

• If you live or work in Davidson County, Vanderbilt Health OnCall brings a Vanderbilt nurse practitioner to your home, office or anywhere else seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The service accepts Aetna Vanderbilt insurance plans, as well as other major plans. Vanderbilt Health OnCall is available to anyone 18 years and older with non-emergent medical conditions, such as a sore throat, fever, cough, earache or minor injury. Download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play or visit to request a visit, and a provider will arrive within two hours of your request. For more information, call 615-241-6000.

• You can find a primary care doctor or specialist using the Aetna DocFind website. The site lists providers in the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network (Tier 1 coverage) and the Aetna National Network (Tier 2 coverage). As a reminder, you will have the greatest plan savings when you use a Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network clinician.