Hospitals look for new ways to reduce readmissions

Hospitals across the U.S. are looking for new ways to reduce unnecessary hospital readmissions.

According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, about 20 percent of hospitalized Medicare patients are readmitted within 30 days, which is estimated to cost the system 17 billion dollars per year.  New Medicare penalties, which take effect in 2012, will recover money for hospital readmissions within 30 days of discharge for heart attack, pneumonia, and heart failure. In the first year, a hospital's total Medicare payments can be reduced by up to 1 percent. The cap rises to 2 percent the next year, and 3 percent the third year.  

Hospitals are finding new ways to reduce readmissions of chronically ill patients.  At Scott and White’s Healthcare in Texas, transition coaches help chronic patients by reviewing medications, calling several times per week to answer any questions and to make sure that patients visit their doctor.  Some heart failure patients at Massachusetts General Hospital are implanted with a cardiac resynchronization therapy device, which has a sensor to record fluid levels in their heart.  This information is downloaded to the hospital several times per day, and diet modifications and physician follow up are implemented as needed.

(Sources: U.S. News & World Report, http://health.usnews.com, July 21, 2010; The Advisory Board Daily Briefing, http://advisory.com, July 22, 2010)