Hospitals And Researchers Test Programs To Stop Readmissions

The Boston Globe reports on hospital readmissions: "In Massachusetts, more than 10 percent of patients are back in the hospital for the same or unrelated complaints within a month, according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a Cambridge-based nonprofit think tank. Over two years, more than a quarter of all patients end up paying a repeat visit to the hospital, a new 12-state study by the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found. Three-quarters of readmissions could likely be avoided with better care, according to a 2007 congressional report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission that got the attention of hospitals, insurance companies, doctors' groups, patient advocates, and the US Congress. Cutting back on readmissions offers an opportunity to cut costs while improving care." The new health law will penalize hospitals with high readmission rates, and researchers are looking at a variety of strategies to cut the numbers (Weintraub, 6/21).

The New York Times: "Discharge from the hospital is a critical point in a patient's recovery, particularly for older people with chronic conditions. The process is supposed to be carefully planned, but instead it often is rushed and poorly coordinated, resulting in complications that send patients back to the emergency room. … Hospital stays certainly are shorter now: the average stay was 4.6 days in 2007, down from about 5.7 days in 1993. But the readmissions problem is not simply the result of compressed care, experts say."

"But there is a movement to improve care after discharge and to reduce readmissions." Among those is one program at the University of Colorado Denver that coaches older adults "to take a more active role in their care. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has a program at 14 locations to improve hospital hand-offs for high-risk patients. Officials also are developing a program to reward hospitals for lowering readmission rates. Project Boost, a program developed by the Society of Hospital Medicine, provides hospitals with a tool kit of forms and procedures that standardize and enhance the discharge process" (Alderman, 6/18).

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