Population health programs aimed at reducing hospital admissions may actually cut readmissions as well, according to a study published in Health Affairs.
Researchers analyzed Medicare data from 2010 and 2013 to determine changes in both admission and 30-day readmission rates, with particular emphasis on communities where providers act as major referral centers. They found a strong association between fewer admissions and lower readmission rates, even though within the communities that experienced steep drops in admission rates, the patients that were hospitalized were in worse health.
"We're showing that communities can do a good job of improving both population health and outcomes after hospitalization,” lead author Kumar Dharmarajan, M.D., an assistant professor of cardiology at Yale School of Medicine, said in a statement. “These goals are not in conflict.”
The results, he added, demonstrate how efforts to improve population health and strengthen patients’ social support impacts the entire continuum of care.
"Doing the right thing for the patient in one setting seems to help in other settings as well," said Dharmarajan.
Although the researchers limited the study to older patients, they said the findings suggest the approach would have similar results across the board.
Despite this evidence of the importance of population health, recent research indicates hospitals are dragging their feet on implementing programs, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Far too many providers have taken a “wait and see” approach to population health, according to a February survey, particularly in light of the historical animosity between hospital and health payers. Clinicians were far more skeptical about population health than the broader healthcare field, according to another survey conducted later this year.