HIT to boost interspecialty communication can reduce hospitalizations

Increased communication between primary care physicians and specialists was associated with lower rates of potentially avoidable hospitalizations in a new study of Medicare patients. Greater use of health IT found to make that more so, according to the authors.

The study, published at the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, looked at interspecialty communication and its effects on "ambulatory care-sensitive conditions" (ACSCs)--conditions for which good outpatient care can potentially prevent the need for hospitalization. For this study, those conditions were diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and congestive heart failure.

Medicare patients with chronic conditions tend to see numerous specialists, though with the fee-for-service payment model, interspecialty communication is poor, the authors point out. The move to value-based payment models, however, is changing that.

While there was no significant main impact between health IT use and ACSC hospitalizations, the associations between interspecialty communication and ACSC hospitalizations were magnified in the presence of higher HIT use, the authors wrote.

For example, patients in practices with both the highest level of interspecialty communication and the highest level of health IT use had lower odds of ambulatory care-sensitive hospitalizations than those in practices with lower interspecialty communication and high health IT use.

The researchers conclude that health IT can facilitate care coordination to effectively treat these conditions and keep patients out of the hospital.

FierceHealthFinance's Ron Shinkman recently recounted how a little care coordination could have saved thousands of dollars in the care of his father-in-law.

Community-based programs, meanwhile, are helping to keep hospital "super-users" out of the ER. The Johns Hopkins Community Health Partnership, for example, has staff calling them at least once a week between doctors' appointments to make sure they're taking their medications or to find out whether they need food or housing assistance.

To learn more:
- read the study