KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Study: Hospital Follow Up Can Curb Readmission Rate For Heart Patients

"Hospitals can slow the revolving door that shuttles heart failure patients back into bed within a month of going home by following up promptly to ensure patients get the right outpatient care, a study shows," USA Today reports. "On average, nearly 20% of the 1 million heart failure patients admitted to U.S. hospitals each year are readmitted within a month. Heart failure is the leading cause of those readmissions, which overall cost Medicare $17 billion every year and amount to 20% of all Medicare payments, government data show."

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that "[p]atients discharged from hospitals that check up promptly were almost 15% less likely to need rehospitalization so soon, researchers found." But "more than half" of the 252 hospitals in the study "failed to follow up with patients for a week after their discharge, though most are elderly, frail and taking a different mix of prescriptions or dosages" (Sternberg, 5/4).

HealthDay News/Bloomberg Businessweek: "Money is a major factor in the readmission issue. 'There is currently no direct incentive' for a hospital to report the rate of readmissions, [study author Dr. Adrian F.] Hernandez said, but the newly enacted health care law calls for a reduction in Medicare payments to hospitals with high readmission rates for heart failure patients, starting in October 2012. The new study provides support for that measure, Hernandez said" (Edelson, 5/4).

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