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November 15, 2018
Upper right: Medical student Michael Arenson and nursing student Colin McNamara

Student initiative to cool down cost hot spots

A small group of Emory students from the schools of medicine, nursing, public health and law have banded together to try to curb health care costs by bringing a national initiative to Atlanta. The Interprofessional Student Hotspotting Learning Collaborative in Atlanta is an affiliate of a national initiative established by the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers.

The interdisciplinary student hotspotting teams target the medically and socially complex patients who constitute 5% of Grady’s patients but account for 50% of its health care costs—the “hot spots.” The teams work to cool those spots down, but not by providing medical care or advice. Instead, they help these patients manage their conditions to keep them out of the ER and the hospital in any way they can.

Students visit patients in their homes, or, if the patient is homeless, wherever they can. They accompany patients to a doctor’s appointment. "We try to find out what they need to keep their condition stable," says Michael Arenson, a fourth-year medical student who has been working to bring the initiative to Emory for the past three years. "Sometimes that means making sure they are taking their meds correctly, or making sure there is not a significant amount of mold in their house. It can also mean supporting them to get an ID that they need for a job. We don’t do it for them. The whole idea is to help them become self-sufficient."

Arenson worked with Colin McNamara, a family nurse practitioner student, and three other students to lay the ground work for the initiative last year. This year the program has attracted 32 students (Arenson actually had to turn some students away) representing eight disciplines from four academic institutions—Emory schools of medicine, nursing, public health, and law as well as an undergraduate, Georgia State University schools of law and social work, Mercer University College of Pharmacy, and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The Atlanta team is sponsored through a seed grant provided through a partnership among the Emory/Georgia Tech Healthcare Innovation Program, the Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance, and Georgia State University. Additional funding has also been received from Emory’s Primary Care Consortium as well as discretionary research funds allocated by Linda McCauley, dean of nursing.

The students have been divided into four teams of eight, and each team will work with five patients, for a total of 20. "Twenty patients may not sound like much, but if you look at the cost to treat this group, we hope to save Grady a good bit of money," says Arenson. "We also hope to improve these patients' quality of life. And finally, we are giving students a unique interdisciplinary education opportunity."--Martha McKenzie

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