COLUMBUS — A report to be released at a statewide conference sponsored by the Ohio Council for Home Care and Hospice (OCHCH) shows that the number of people readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of initial admittance can be dramatically reduced through concentrated efforts by health care professionals, potentially saving as much as $56 million a year in taxpayer supported reimbursement payments.
“At a time when state and federal budgets are strapped, and there is growing concern about the overall cost of health care and the impact of the Affordable Care Act, this is very good news indeed,” said Kathleen Anderson, OCHCH president. “This is one of those rare instances where we can actually provide better care for patients and save tax dollars. It’s a win for everyone.”
The Gallipolis-based Ohio Valley Home Health, Inc., agency was a key partner in the study.
Patients being readmitted to the hospital within 30 days after initial admittance are considered by medical experts and federal health care officials as a leading cause of spiraling health care costs. With that in mind, OCHCH contracted more than a year ago with Fazzi Associates, a nationally recognized consulting group, to monitor and study ways to reduce re-hospitalizations. More than 70 agency members of OCHCH participated. The effort, called “The Ohio Move to Improve Campaign for Excellence,” saw an average 14.8 percent reduction in hospital admissions. Some agencies saw a decline of up to 40 percent.
“The campaign dramatically lowered hospitalization rates and showed what could happen if a state association such as Ohio Council, its dedicated agency members, and health care professionals, all work together to lower these rates,” said Robert Fazzi, President and CEO of Fazzi Associates. “Ohio Council and the agencies are to be commended.”
Anderson noted that the average tax-supported reimbursement in 2009 for a hospital patient in Ohio was $9,600.
“If Ohio could reduce its re-hospitalization rate down to 26 percent, just below the national average, it would mean 5,754 fewer patients hospitalized and a net potential savings of just over $56 million,” Anderson said. “Obviously, that is a dramatic savings — and it also means better care for those thousands of patients who do not have to return to the hospital.”
A number of factors contributed to helping patients avoid the need to return to the hospital, including more diligent monitoring of medications, assuring support systems were in place in the home and community settings, better educating family members about proper care, and closer coordination with all involved in the patient’s treatment, including family physicians and hospital staff.
“Our study shows that it’s really a matter of everyone working together,” said Frederick Pordum, a Senior Consultant at Fazzi Associates, who led the study. “Leading associations such as OCHCH and their members have the expertise that needs to be tapped when decisions are being made about care.”
The Ohio study comes on the heels of a national report by The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit research foundation, that determined readmissions are costing Medicare nearly $17 billion a year. The researchers surveyed 500 hospitals and found that 90 percent had written objectives to reduce readmissions but “very few had implemented a range of strategies to achieve that goal.”
“This suggests there is significant opportunity for continued improvement in communication and care coordination,” the report concluded.
Anderson said such involvement is the key to reducing readmissions, improving care and cutting costs.
“By properly coordinating the needs of the patient with the hospital staff, the family of the patient and the appropriate home health care agency , the need to be readmitted to the hospital can be reduced significantly,” Anderson noted.
“OCHCH has pledged to work with all parties involved to help address this serious problem,” said Anderson. “This latest research by Fazzi and Associates provides excellent new data for moving forward. We owe it to the patients and to our fellow taxpayers to move forward on this and be sure we all are dedicating ourselves to providing the best care we can in the most cost effective manner.”