Is tech the answer to reducing readmissions?

Entrepreneurs are stepping in to offer technological solutions as penalties increase Oct. 1 for excess hospital readmissions, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the maximum penalty will rise from 1 percent of a hospital's base Medicare payment to 2 percent on Oct. 1, and go up to 3 percent by fiscal year 2015. Penalties estimated at $227 million are expected to be levied against 2,225 hospitals in the new fiscal year.

The story features a startup that is among the companies offering software and smartphone apps to help hospitals lower readmissions. Its software sorts through data to produce personalized instructions for patients going home. Providers can print out these instructions as a 10-page booklet to give to patients upon their departure. Patients also can look up the instructions on a secure web portal.

Vendors face a number of obstacles, including years-long sales cycles and organizations that rely on nurses and other caregivers to identify patients that need more help when they go home.

While the technology might help identify patients needing more care coordination, three nonprofit hospitals in the Bronx, N.Y., found that personal contact with nurse care transition managers before and after discharge made a significant difference.

North Carolina hospitals, meanwhile, reduced readmissions by 20 percent among the sickest and poorest patients in the state through a transitional care program that required intensive follow-ups.

And in a study by Binghamton University's College of Community and Public Affairs and SUNY Upstate Medical University focused on 100 high-risk patients, social workers performing follow-up were able to cut readmissions by half.

To learn more:
- read the WSJ article

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