Photo: Nathan and Jenny (Flickr)
Some local hospitals will soon lose money because too many of their Medicare patients are readmitted for treatment within 30 days of being discharged from their initial stay.
Medicare recently began a new data collection period, but this time with teeth. Hospitals whose heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia patients come back too soon or too often will now cost the hospitals money if the readmission rate is worse than the national average.
For Columbus Regional Hospital, it is not a big concern, says Chief Medical Officer Tom Sonderman.
“We are not anticipating any kind of deduct in payment for this first session,” he says. “We are actually doing better than expected and are doing better than the national average.”
But it is a different story for Union Hospital in Terre Haute.
“We’re looking at around $400,000,” says Utilization Management Manager Lori Horrall, who says many of her hospital’s readmissions happen soon after a patient is discharged…
“About 40 percent of our congestive heart failure patients, if they’re going to be readmitted, come back within those first seven days,” she says.
Union Hospital has tasked a nurse with following up with those heart failure patients. If readmission rates shrink, nurses may also begin checking in with pneumonia and heart attack patients, too.
Both hospitals say the key to reducing the readmission rates and, by extension, any fines they incur is better communication with patients after they leave a doctor’s care. It is part of a larger push by hospitals to eliminate a perverse incentive, because the more times a person sees a doctor, the more a hospital makes. But expert say that does not necessarily equate to better care.