What is Vituity? What does your company do?
Denise Brown, MD: Vituity is a physician-led acute care partnership of 3,000 doctors serving patients across a variety of medical specialties throughout 250 practice locations. Our providers proactively lead change in healthcare, representing acute neurology, acute psychiatry, anesthesiology, critical care, emergency medicine, hospital medicine, post-acute care, surgical care, telehealth, and urgent care. We believe in taking a flexible approach to each engagement, with the goal of helping deliver higher quality care and focus on what matters most – improving patient lives.
What does “proactively lead change in healthcare” look like?
Dr. Brown: Proactively leading change means partnering with those working on the front lines of healthcare to understand the challenges their hospitals and health systems face, and then finding solutions that address those problems from the ground up. Our approach is to implement solutions rooted in effective, early, and appropriate interventions that result in improved outcomes and higher patient, family, provider, and staff satisfaction.
From your perspective, what is one of the greatest challenges you are addressing with health systems today?
Dr. Brown: A growing need in hospitals across the country is addressing the exponential growth of patients presenting the emergency department (ED) with a behavioral health (BH) issue. According to recent CDC data, EDs now deliver half of all U.S. hospital-based medical care , accounting for over 140 million annual visits. Ten years ago, BH patients were less than 5% of ED volume; today this number has more than doubled.
Despite this growth, many ED providers are often unsure of the right course of action. Many jump to the conclusion that all emergency BH patients need to be admitted; yet research shows that roughly 80% of BH emergencies can be resolved within 23 hours. Compounding this, BH patients are routinely prescribed sedation medication, and/or restrained. This leads to chaotic conditions and an increase in the anxiety level of the ED, as well as wait times, degrading the care experience for all ED patients.
What can emergency departments do to address this escalating number of patients with behavioral health emergencies?
Dr. Brown: Emergency departments can become better integrated to ensure that training and processes are appropriate for all patients. Oftentimes, processes for treating behavioral health issues are fragmented and not clinically integrated across the department. This gap in care causes widespread suffering and undermines the economics of our emergency departments.
Vituity provides its partners with offerings centered on properly and comprehensively evaluating and treating patients in the ED with behavioral health issues. Designed by emergency medicine physicians and acute psychiatrists, we help drive change in improving care delivery and efficiencies.
How do you work with emergency departments on this issue?
Dr. Brown: Our approach encompasses a few main components. First, physician leaders offer guidance, resources and support to help hospitals and health systems properly treat all emergency patients – whether they’re in need of behavioral or physical emergency care.
Second, we offer a comprehensive behavioral health solution, which includes telepsychiatry, EmPATH Units, and inpatient psychiatry.
Most importantly, we focus on education. We provide toolkits designed to help EDs address the day-to-day needs of treating behavioral health conditions, recommend best practices in acute behavioral health, and identify policies for opioid and agitation management. Our educational courses provide additional depth and context and can be taken either online or in-person. And our integration and leadership training focuses on optimizing workflows and staff engagement.
How do you think these solutions will serve hospitals and health systems in the long run?
Dr. Brown: These solutions enable emergency departments to better serve all patients, including those with behavioral health conditions. They also help achieve higher emergency department throughput, and inspire a more stable, engaged staff, allowing providers to rekindle their joy of practicing medicine. At the same time, hospitals can realize improved operational efficiencies and a reduction in lost revenue. Most importantly, they help patients know on a very human level that they’re receiving proper care, and provide communities with the confidence and comfort of knowing their local emergency departments can be trusted in dealing with a healthcare crisis.
Denise Brown, MD, is Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President of Business Development for Vituity. This article originally appeared in Health Leaders Media.