A hospital group's database and hotline system has helped slash the number of high-risk patients visiting its emergency rooms or being admitted to hospital. Only 22 per cent of the 683 high-risk patients aged over 65 and living at home used the emergency services of the Hong Kong East Hospitals Cluster last month - down from 82 per cent in November when the pilot scheme was launched. Under the system, the seven-hospital cluster automatically files the medical details of such patients - mostly those who suffer from three or more chronic diseases or are frequently admitted to hospital - in the database when they are discharged. This gives hospital staff and caregivers access to the patients' medical history at any time. Under a telephone-nursing consultation service launched at the same time, nurses call patients in the database within 48 hours of their discharge to check on them. Bernard Kong Ming-hei, deputy director (community service) of the hospital group, said both the database and the hotline had led to the more efficient use of medical resources, reducing the burden posed by these long-term patients. 'We can give them guidance or transfer them to relevant health experts in the community to handle their case,' Dr Kong said. 'If needed, we can send nurses to visit them.' Since November, the number of such patients readmitted to hospitals within 28 days of being discharged had dropped from 36 to nine. The database includes details of 6,000 people living in nursing homes. The seven hospitals serve 850,000 people. Dr Kong acknowledged that the admission rate might increase during the winter months. Cluster chief executive Loretta Yam Yin-chun said the system could save money but it was too early to say how much. The cluster might extend the service to patients suffering from bone problems or other illnesses. The Hospitals in the cluster are the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern, St John, Wong Chuk Hang, Ruttonjee, Tang Shiu Kin and Tung Wah Eastern hospitals and the Cheshire Home at Chung Hom Kok.