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49 states, DC reduce avoidable hospital readmissions

Avoidable readmissions within 30 days of initial discharge are estimated to cost Medicare more than $17 billion annually.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

Hospital readmission rates fell by 8 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to data released Tuesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Since 2010, all states but one - Vermont - have seen Medicare 30-day readmission rates fall; in 43 states, readmission rates fell by more than 5 percent; and in 11 states, readmission rates fell by more than 10 percent.

The readmission rate in Vermont remained virtually unchanged, increasing slightly from 15.3 percent in 2010 to 15.4 percent in 2015, CMS said. This change correlates to 21 additional readmissions.

[Also: More than half of hospitals to be penalized for excess readmissions]

Medicare beneficiaries across all states avoided almost 104,000 readmissions in 2015, in comparing data to 2010 readmission levels, CMS said. Since 2010, Medicare beneficiaries have avoided an estimated 565,000 readmissions.

Potentially avoidable hospital readmissions that occur within 30 days of a patient's initial discharge are estimated to account for more than $17 billion in Medicare expenditures annually. 

The data was released in a blog by Patrick Conway, MD, principal deputy administrator and CMO of CMS and Tim Gronniger, deputy chief of staff, who credit the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program and the administration's broader strategy to reform the healthcare system.

[Also: High hospital readmissions not tied to spike in deaths, Johns Hopkins research shows]

The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, created by the Affordable Care Act, adjusts payments for hospitals with higher than expected 30-day readmission rates for targeted clinical conditions such as heart attacks, heart failure, and pneumonia.

Many readmissions can be avoided through improvements in care, such as making sure that patients leave the hospital with appropriate medications, instructions for follow-up care, and follow-up appointments scheduled to make sure their recovery stays on track, Conway and Gronniger said in the blog.

[Also: Cardiac rehab cuts hospital readmissions, saves money]

Other quality initiatives include Partnership for Patients, which aims to improve the quality of care for individuals as they move from one healthcare setting to another; accountable care organizations; and efforts by quality improvement organizations and hospital engagement networks, which fund quality improvement expert consultants to work with provider and hospital communities to improve care. 

Twitter: @SusanJMorse