Disappointing hospital readmission rates remain steady

Hospital readmissions rates aren't moving, despite best efforts to curb the number of people bouncing back to the hospital, according to Hospital Compare data updated yesterday.

More than one in five Medicare patients are readmitted within 30 days of discharge, Kaiser Health News and The Washington Post reported. With reimbursement penalties scheduled to hit hospitals in October, the readmission rates can be disheartening news to providers.

"We've put all of this policy effort into this area, and yet we're seeing no movement," Harvard School of Public Health professor Ashish Jha said. "Either we have no idea how to really improve readmissions or most of the readmissions are not preventable and the efforts being put on it are not useful."

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services yesterday updated data for quality measures on the Hospital Compare website, which saw more than 1.2 million visits in the first half of 2012, CMS said.

The readmission data revealed that 19.7 percent of heart attack patients were readmitted, only a 0.1 percentage point lower than the previous year, according to 2007 through 2010 data. Similarly, heart failure readmission also only dropped by 0.1 percentage point to 24.7 percent. Even more, pneumonia readmission actually rose by 0.1 percentage point to 18.5 percent.

However, as the American Hospital Association noted, those figures don't accurately reflect the recent advancements that hospitals have made because the Medicare rates include readmissions over three years.

"We are seeing precipitous drops in admissions for all three of these conditions, and we suspect it is because the patients who are relatively well are being better managed in the ambulatory setting," AHA Vice President Nancy Foster told KHN/Washington Post.

For more information:
- see the Kaiser Health News article and the Washington Post article
- here's the CMS announcement
- check out the Hospital Compare website

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