Target Medicare patients to prevent ER visits

Hospitals looking to cut avoidable emergency room visits and hospitalizations should set their sights on Medicare patients. Almost 60 percent of their ER visits and 25 percent of their hospital admissions were "potentially preventable," according to a study released Friday by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC).

The study found the most preventable ER visits involved super respiratory infections, while most preventable hospital admissions were for congestive heart failure, Kaiser Health News reported.

Acknowledging that not all preventable ER visits or admissions can be avoided, MedPAC pointed to adequate access to family doctors and urgent care centers, as well as better chronic disease management by patients and their doctors, as possible solutions.

Meanwhile, new legislation aims to expand on the Older Americans Act for better coordination between medical and social services for elderly people with multiple chronic illnesses, according to the bill proposed by Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

"Preventable and highly manageable chronic diseases consume 75 percent of healthcare costs, making it vital that we find common-sense solutions to ensure that seniors can better manage their chronic diseases," Schwartz said Thursday in a statement.

Thanks to such care coordination, providers in Colorado lowered emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations for chronically ill patients with a patient-centered medical home pilot, according to an article in last month's Health Affairs.

For more:
- read the MedPAC study outline (.pdf)
- read the KHN article
- here's the statement from Rep. Schwartz