Preventable hospitalizations down among American seniors

A new report on the state of seniors' health indicates that preventable hospitalizations have dropped among this population, a positive sign for a healthcare industry that has made reducing this metric among its top priorities.

In the third edition of its annual America's Health Rankings Senior Report, the United Health Foundation says its data show "encouraging news for senior health nationally," but notes that this population did experience some setbacks compared to previous years.

A 6.8 percent reduction in preventable hospitalizations is among the major gains, a measure that's also dropped 11 percent since 2013, according to the report. Several big-picture industry trends support the drive to reduce hospital admissions and readmissions, including the push for better population health management and the shift from a fee-for-service model to value-based payments, which rewards providers for producing better outcomes.

An increased number of seniors also reported that they got a flu vaccine, and more reported better health overall, according to the report. However, one-third of seniors do not get enough physical activity, a 15 percent increase over the previous year and a finding likely tied to the fact that 26.7 percent are obese. Furthermore, nearly 38 percent of seniors juggle four or more chronic conditions--a cause for concern considering the fact that the country's senior population is expected to double by 2050, according to the report.

On the other hand, the report found a 9.3 percent increase in the number of home health workers year over year, and a 38 percent rise in the share of seniors who choose hospice care at the end of their lives. These findings echo a recent report that indicated nursing homes may replace hospitals as the major providers of senior care, a trend fueled by the increased interest in palliative care.

Indeed, the uptick in hospice care use "reflects seniors' well-being at each step of the aging process and benefits our healthcare system," Reed Tuckson, M.D., senior medical adviser to United Health Foundation, said in a statement about the report.

To learn more:
- check out the report (.pdf)
- explore the rankings
- here's the statement

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