20 social workers save Mount Sinai millions

Mount Sinai Hospital has been able to save $1.6 million over a six-month period by providing additional monitoring of patients at high risk for multiple admissions, Bloomberg News reported.

The hospital, one of New York City's largest facilities, has a staff of 27 social workers assigned to keep what it considers high-risk individuals from becoming repeated inpatients. Such patients often miss doctors' appointments or skip medications, leading to the relapses.

The program has cut readmissions 43 percent and ER visits by more than half, Bloomberg reported. The initiative is part of the Affordable Care Act's attempt to cut costs. Mount Sinai received federal grants that covers the cost of 20 of its social workers.

"This is not just one more of those 1990s initiatives around cost containment, this is really a trend around changing the way you deliver care," Karoline Hilu, a senior director at the Advisory Board, told Bloomberg. "This is going to be what hospitals need to do to survive in this current era of healthcare."

Although the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has established financial penalties for some patient readmissions within 30 days of discharge, it remains a complex issue. Nearly one in seven patients undergoing major surgery wind up being readmitted, for example.

Readmission initiatives at other facilities have enjoyed similar successes. Indiana University-Methodist Hospital was able to cut readmissions of congestive heart failure patients by 25 percent by using an early alert system embedded in its electronic medical records system, reported MedPage Today.

To learn more:
- read the Bloomberg News article
- here's the MedPageToday article

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