NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — There’s room to improve the Healthcare City, according to a new study by Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Researchers found the existence of so-called “hotspots,” which are home to a high concentration of Medicaid patients who often patronize New Brunswick’s hospitals, according to the school. Emergency room bills for these people reached $14 million over two years—or roughly a fifth of the area’s total Medicaid costs during that time, according to Rutgers.
“By using emergency departments and winding up in the hospital, these are a very expensive group of folks to care for,” Alfred Tallia, a researcher who heads the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, told Rutgers Today, “and this study opens up the possibility that maybe we should do something differently.”
The study examined 45,316 residents of New Brunswick and Franklin Township who sought treatment at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Saint Peter’s University Hospital.
It homed in on 1,370 individuals who went to the emergency rooms at least five times, or underwent at least three hospital stays, in 2012 and 2013. The average two-year medical bill for each individual totaled roughly $18,000, according to the study.
By and large, researchers found, these “high utilizers” came from eight apartment buildings or complexes—the “hotspots.” These areas typically cropped up in neighborhoods with “high concentrations of elderly individuals, people who are disadvantaged economically and socially and working adults and elderly with limited assets,” according to the study.
The study did not name the eight locales in question.
But it found that just 10 percent of U.S. Census tracts in New Brunswick and Franklin were home to 30 percent of frequent Medicaid patients, who are costlier than typical visitors.
Many of them don’t have strong primary care, according to the study. They may also be battling long-lasting health problems.
“I think the reason people use the emergency department as they do is complex, and there is not one button to push to fix this,’’ said Eric Jahn, a senior associate dean for community health, who worked on the project. “We need to reflect on what resources are here and how we are going to work to address the issues.’’
The researchers said this study is the “first step” in coming up with more effective and less expensive medical treatment options in the New Brunswick area.