Highly Effective Competitors Come Together to Look at a Regional Initiative to Reduce Hospital Readmissions 

Jun 04

Only a health care provider would know that the nationally systemic challenge of the same patients admitted into the hospital again and again was reaching challenging proportions in certain areas of the Region.

When a patient is continuously readmitted (even if that person is at a different hospital), it not only places a heavy cost burden on the hospitals, it usually indicates the patient may have left the hospital too soon or is not getting the necessary follow-up care like office visits, prescribed medicine or outpatient therapy or services.

And there are multiple reasons that contribute to this type of scenario around a particular patient. For instance, in the case of over-prescription of costly pain medication, an insurance provider which may have been unwilling to cover physical therapy after a patient has had an accident, could end up with a chronically ill client who is unable to work and has to be on medication for the rest of his or her life. From the patient’s standpoint it’s devastating. It’s also the most expensive for the patient, the insurance company and in many cases, the taxpayers.

Last month a group of Times Media Co. partners got together to discuss possible cooperative measures to reduce preventable hospital readmissions. The meeting, held at Avalon Manor in Merrillville, brought together members of the Northwest Indiana Health Care Advisory Council, part of the Times Media Co.'s One Region, One Vision initiative.

Denise Dillard, VP of government and external affairs at Methodist Hospitals, moderated the program, and introduced Gary Olund, president and CEO of the Northwest Indiana Community Action Corporation, who described the benefits of a Community-Based Care Transitions Program (CCTP).

Care transition is when a patient is moved among health care practitioners and settings as his or her condition and care changes during illness, as Olund explained. The CCTP was created under the Affordable Care Act. Improving care transitions can reduce avoidable readmissions, which, in addition to providing better care has the benefit of promoting that better health at a lower cost.

Olund explained that one out of five Medicare patients is readmitted within 30 days of discharge. Medicare will begin penalizing hospitals that have a high number of readmissions within the next two years. But Olund went on to explain that lowering the rate through a CCTP program is possible.

He cited a model care transition intervention program implemented in Colorado that has been able to cut readmission rates by 35 to 50 percent. According to Olund, the $74,310 cost of the program there is expected to lead to an annual $289,594 in savings.

Northwest Indiana, in his view, could experience a similar outcome. With experience in care transition and role in the community, the Northwest Indiana Community Action Corporation would be a natural partner in a local CCTP effort, as Olund explained.

Brian Tabor, vice president of government relations for the Indiana Hospital Association, told the group that even if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act, most of the initiatives of the CCTP would likely remain as commonsense good government regulation, explaining, "The federal government doesn't need the ACA for a lot of what it wants to do.”

Merievelyn Stuber, president of the Patient Safety Coalition, stressed the value of collaboration without competition among local health care leaders. The group has come together in the past on other cooperative ventures such as the standardization of certain types of color-coding in the emergency room. In certain instances, something as simple as that can prevent harmful mix-ups and constant retraining.

The Times is always willing to facilitate communication and encourage collaboration between health care providers where it makes sense for overall patient safety and the best standards of care in the Region.

Courtesy of Pat Colander and The Times

Associate Publisher and Editor

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