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Hospitals battle bounce backs

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010



Pennsylvania’s annual report card on hospital performance is out. Many medical centers are still struggling to prevent patients from bouncing back to the hospital.

It’s costly for the health system when patients return to the hospital too soon. So providers in southeast Pennsylvania have formed a collaborative to find the best ways to reduce readmissions – and smooth the transition from hospital to home.

Kate Flynn leads the Health Care Improvement Foundation.

Flynn: Some hospitals are even making home visits for very complex cases. It’s better and more cost effective for the hospital to send someone to the house to see what needs to be done is being done and to intervene if there needs to be a change.

Flynn says hospital staffers also make follow-up calls to the pharmacy and help patients make appointments with their private doctor.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council compiles the annual snapshot of readmission rates, costs and death rates for more than 20 common conditions. Pennsylvania hospital readmission rates for eight conditions are above 19 percent — and higher than expected.

Doctors say readmission for heart failure, kidney failure and diabetes are common because those chronic conditions can be very difficult to manage at home.

Abington Memorial Hospital in Montgomery County has a dedicated team to extend care for patients with congestive heart failure. Chief patient safety officer Dr. John Kelly says the team prevents bounce-back visits and saves money.

Kelly: For example, a visiting nurse visit to a patient would be far, far cheaper than a day in the hospital. So we do drive down the cost of care at the federal level.

While hospitals still struggle to lower readmission rates, medical centers in Philadelphia’s five-county region have lowered death rates for many common conditions.


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