Thousands of U.S. hospitals under fire for high readmission rates

All hospitals in Illinois and across the country should already be putting the safety of patients first. Patient safety and quality care is often associated with low readmission rates and few incidents ofmedical malpractice. But this fall, hospitals may feel pressured to do more to guarantee patient safety and quality care.

After analyzing hospital readmission rates in the U.S., Medicare has decided that it will penalize facilities for high readmission rates. More than 250 hospitals with big names and reputations, including New York-Presbyterian, the University of Michigan Health System, Mount Sinai and Yale-New Haven, will have reimbursements from Medicare reduced at most by 1 percent due to the Affordable Care Act. Even one of the best hospitals in the country, Massachusetts General, is losing a half of a percent in payments per admitted patient.

Starting in October, the new penalties will affect more than 2,000 hospitals across the country. It is estimated that as many as one out of every five Medicare patients are readmitted to a hospital within one month of being released from a hospital.

Though hospital doctors and nurses should be confident in allowing a patient to return home, a high number of patients are being readmitted just weeks following their discharge date. It is believed that high readmission rates indicate poor quality care. However, some doctors are fighting back saying readmission is the fault of patients who do not obey medication or diet requirements. Also, doctors claim hospitals who serve minorities and low-income patients have higher rates of readmission.

A chief medical officer at a penalized hospital said the facilities should not be punished because of issues outside of their control. Other hospitals that have high readmission rates cite some of the lowest mortality rates.

The penalties are expected to help decrease readmission rates, but also may spread awareness for hospital staff to make sure they are 100 percent confident that the patients they are sending home will not need to be readmitted soon after being released. These penalties might also help to encourage hospitals to make sure patients receive the post-care they need.

Source: MPR News, “Thousands of hospitals face penalties for high readmission rates,” Jordan Rau, Aug. 13, 2012


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