Early results show slow progress in CMS readmissions programs

Only a handful of several community groups that received federal reimbursements for curbing preventable readmissions have delivered better results than programs that were not part of the initiative, according to partial results revealed in a recently released Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services report.

The results, compiled last spring but released this month, analyzed 48 community agencies on aging nationwide participating in the initiative to reduce preventable 30-day readmissions among seniors. Of these, only four achieved substantial results compared to a control group. Twenty-nine groups within the overall program, which has grown since the analysis, have either left the CMS program or been removed from it for missing targets.

Despite the discouraging results, experts emphasize that it is premature to draw broader conclusions. "It's really too early to tell," Ellen Lukens, who leads the practice on hospital and post-hospital care at Avalere Health, told Kaiser Health News. "Can you really evaluate this when it's been such a short period of time?" There was positive news within the early results, Lukens said--for example, many of the participants implemented the program very quickly, and later data should create a clearer picture.

Similarly, Eric Coleman, a professor at the University of Colorado, told the publication that the program may show improved results down the road now that it has removed low-performing participants.

"This is really the first glance of the first two waves of the program," said Health and Human Services Spokesman Raymond Thorn. "It's too early to determine whether this model is failing or not. We will have successes."

Other readmission reduction programs have reported better results. For example, providers participating in the Hospital Engagement Network have reduced heart-failure readmissions by 13 percent and saved more than $200 million, FierceHealthcare previously reported. And Indiana University Health Saxony Hospital, inspired by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel's daily staff meetings, was able to reduce hip and knee replacement readmissions to under 1 percent.

To learn more:
- read the report (.pdf)
- here's the KHN article