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Hospital Readmission News Headlines You Might Have Missed in 2017

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Since the rollout of the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program and its value-based penalties, which have affected thousands of hospitals, readmissions have become an important topic to hospitals around the country.

Since hospitals can now be penalized by up to 3 percent of their Medicare reimbursement for high 30-day readmission rates for conditions like heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia, hospitals continue to look for ways to reduce readmissions and penalties.

There’s more information than ever coming out surrounding readmissions. Here’s a look at some of the important hospital readmission news headlines you might have missed this year.

Mortality Rates Rise After Penalties for Readmissions are Enforced

Recently making headlines, a JAMA Cardiology study recently showed that since the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program has been implemented, there’s been an increase in both short- and long-term mortalities rates for heart failure.

After penalties for readmissions started to be enforced in 2013, readmission rates for heart failure did begin to decrease, dropping from 20.1 percent to 18.7 percent. However, there has been a subsequent increase in mortality rates, with the 30-day mortality rate going up from 7.6 percent to 9.3 percent after implementation of the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program penalties.

With these recent findings, there’s some concern that the penalty program may be pushing hospitals so hard to reduce readmissions that it could be putting the survival of heart failure patients in jeopardy.

Personalized Electronic Patient Management Messaging Reduces Readmissions for Posterior Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery

This year, an abstract from Massachusetts General Hospital on a pilot study was published in the Journal of Neurosurgery highlighting new findings that show that personalized electronic patient management messaging can reduce readmissions for patients who have undergone a lumbar spinal fusion.

During both pre-operative and post-operative periods, the platform automated patient engagement with Interactive Voice Response, emails, and text messages to educate patients on the behaviors necessary for a successful recovery. Communications were personalized to the patients’ motivations and personalities using a psychographic segmentation model. The communications also included patient response mechanisms allowing for two-way feedback.

The goal was to reduce 30-day readmissions, improve patient satisfaction and outcomes, and effective monitor progress. During the pilot study, the readmission rate was lowered to 1.45 percent, which has now been sustained for 20 months. The pilot indicated that digital communications using psychographic messaging can be helpful in reducing hospital readmissions.

Improved Patient Engagement Reduces Hospital Readmissions

A whitepaper recently published by FierceMarkets shared evidence that improving patient engagement post-discharge offers an effective way to reduce hospital readmissions. A pilot to reduce 30 day Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) readmissions using a platform for digital patient engagement demonstrated a significant drop in readmission rates at a large, nonprofit hospital system.

The five month long pilot involved of a platform for digital outreach to engage and educate patients once they left the hospital. These communications were also personalized using  psychographic segmentation, recognizing that CHF patients are not a homogenous population who all think and act alike. Patient communications were targeted to the individual based on his or her psychographic segment classification, enhancing the effectiveness of  engagement and resulting in better patient outcomes and reduced rates of hospital readmissions.

New Study Shows Hospitals with High Risk Patients are Targeted with Readmission Penalties

Another hospital readmission headline is a new study showing that readmission penalties are disproportionately affecting hospitals with high-risk patients. Hospitals that are serving patients with more severe conditions and social determinants are actually the hospitals most likely to end up receiving penalties under the Hospital Readmissions Reduction program.

According to UT Southwestern Medical Center professor, James de Lemos, M.D., who was the senior author of a recent study done on the topic, new research is raising concerns about the fairness of CMS readmission penalties — particularly for hospitals that take care of a large number of patients who have socioeconomic disadvantages.

As we head into 2018, there are significant opportunities for improving hospital readmission rates across many health conditions. Taking what we have learned in 2017 and improving upon hospital procedures, efficiencies and innovation will be key to better patient care and the financial performance of hospitals that are at risk for HRRP penalties.


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