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Health Care Improvement Group Applauds Work of Health Care Cost Containment Council

A report this week from The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) showed that more than 10 percent of those released from hospitals in Pennsylvania are readmitted within 30 days and that means a huge cost for taxpayers. Readmissions for Medicare patients alone accounted for more than a half billion dollars in spending in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

The Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative said the report will be helpful going forward. The group is a regional health improvement collaborative, working to improve healthcare throughout the region in hospitals, health systems, office practices, and long-term care. Report such as the one from PCH4 allows the medical community to better understand how well or how ill prepared someone is to be discharged from the hospital. The national rate of readmission is about 20%.

"So, 1 in 5 Medicare patients discharged from the hospital will be back in 30 days. They found that about half of the people that came back to the hospital didn't reach their physician. That could be because they didn't know to call their physician, they weren't sure who their physician was, or they couldn't reach their physician. Our fear is the latter one," said Dr. Keith Kanel, chief medical officer of the Regional Health Initiative.

Kanel added this information could help physicians and health systems improve their services and ultimately cut down the number of readmissions. For example, he cited a nurse care manager position that sees patients in the hospital before discharge, then follows up with them in their home, making sure that people know how to use their medications and everyone in the household understands the care needed.

"And by that simple intervention, we reduced the 30 day readmission rate by 44% in a year," said Kanel.

Still, the PHC4 reports showed there is an ongoing problem when it comes to readmissions, and Kanel said it's good that such a resources exists to bring such issues to light.

"This is a unique service that's offered in very few states," he added, "PHC4 is a public-private agency that's been established by the state legislature to provide a state clearing house so that every hospital provides standardized information to one place, so we really have a handle of what's going on in Pennsylvania and many other states don't have that kind of reporting system."

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