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Thought Leaders Thoughts on Readmissions

By Clive Riddle, January 20, 2012

Health Policy Publishing LLC this week launched its inaugural issue of Readmissions News, which is targeted at stakeholders interested in the management of hospital readmissions. One of the features of the new monthly newsletters is a Thought Leaders corner, and in this issue, experts were asked "Do you feel significant potential savings and improvements from further reductions in hospital readmissions can be achieved through the current set of public and private initiatives, or are expectations too high?"

Here are excerpts of what they had to say in response:

Randall Krakauer, MD, FACP, FACR; Aetna’s National Medical Director, Consumer Segment said in part “….The potential for impact has been demonstrated with several different programs under different conditions.  However, there is still a significant opportunity to broaden these efforts and create additional improvements in quality and savings.  Aetna has partnered with Dr. Mary Naylor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in developing and implementing a transitional care model that has resulted in improved quality and reduced costs for our Medicare Advantage members.  The demonstrated potential creates an imperative that public and private organizations work together to continue to expand these initiatives.  We should expect these types of programs to be as much a part of health care delivery as any other public health measure with demonstrated and accepted value.”

 Jeff Lemieux, AHIP’s Senior Vice President, Research, gave a response that included:  “The 20 percent reduction in readmission rates proposed in the Partnership for Patients Initiative sets an initial target for all stakeholders.  However, preliminary studies of variation in readmission rates across regions and plan types – and the measured success of certain transitional care programs – suggest that larger reductions may be possible.  We should aim for across-the-board improvements in all hospitals and for all patients, whether coverage is through public programs or employer sponsored insurance.  We should track progress on readmissions in the context of overall hospitalization rates….”

William J DeMarco, MA, CMC, President & CEO, Pendulum Healthcare Development Corporation, included in his response:  “…Hospitals that dropped their home health agencies need to rethink how they can realign the existing home health system or expand their own to take the pressure off of doctors by having these agencies step in with skilled nursing and custodial care.  This may include cross training people to come to the aid of those with chronic conditions early instead of having these patients filling the ER.  Several HMOs and some hospitals are building ‘navigator’ programs to attract and train people who are not professional RNs or LPNs but can be trained to watch for signs of a chronic care patient losing their way on the path to improved health status….”

Brian Jack MD, Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Family Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine / Boston Medical Center;  concluded his remarks with:  “….A variety of implementation demonstrations for hospital based transition programs such as RED, BOOST, STARR, and H2H are gaining momentum and allowing researchers to study what works and what does not.  Across the country there is now a long list ‘early adopter’ hospitals that have demonstrated remarkable reductions in readmission rates.  All this effort is forcing hospitals and communities to work together as partners, a necessary ingredient for successful ACOs.  However, safe readmission reduction can only happen if hospitals have well developed community-based partners, particularly primary care partners, willing and able to care for patients in the community.  We need to ensure that this primary care safety net is available for patients.”

Alexander Domaszewicz, Principal, Mercer, concluded  “…. real, sustainable improvements that don't require constant oversight, monitoring, and effort will likely take a shift in marketplace practices driven by payment practices. HHS not paying for readmissions caused by ‘never events’ and guarantees like Geisinger's pledge to not charge for readmissions after heart surgery within ninety days are key examples of how to get every facility and practitioner keenly focused on eliminating readmissions.”

Benjamin Isgur, Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP's Health Research Institute, continued his discussion, asking  “….How responsible should hospitals be when community doctors or patients fail to follow discharge instructions?  Can hospitals realistically cut readmissions when so much is out of their control?  However, it is possible to reduce preventable readmissions if hospitals address three major issues: discharge planning, length of stay, and closer alignment to physicians.  All of these issues relate to focusing on the total health of a patient instead of performing a procedure. ….”

Peter Kongstvedt, MD, FACP, Principal, P.R. Kongstvedt Co., LLC , opened his reply with “We’re going to see modest improvements at best until we address the lack of coordination and follow up in both the transition from inpatient to outpatient and coordinated outpatient management of patients with multiple chronic diseases. Many of the approaches to managing patients with multiple complex diseases are able to demonstrate improvements in quality, but few demonstrate improvements in overall costs.  The exception is nurse-led teams involving multiple clinical disciplines and access to physician support…..”

Finally, Martin S. Kohn, MD, MS, FACEP, FACPE, Chief Medical Scientist, Care Delivery Systems

IBM Research;   concluded his remarks by saying  “….Many organizations have substantially reduced re-admissions using current technology. The greater challenge will be reducing all admissions, over longer periods for more patients.  A patient will not view a re-admission on the 31st day differently from an admission on the 29th day.   Keeping more patients safely out of the hospital will require enhanced population and predictive analytics to personalize the prevention programs to make them economically efficient with improved outcomes.”

A complimentary copy of the inaugural issue of Readmissions News can be obtained by visiting

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