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National Policies to Reduce Hospital Readmissions Face ‘Uncertain Success’

Authors identify obstacles to progress (Mar. 5)

Reducing preventable hospital readmissions is a cornerstone of emerging health care policy. For example, the U.S. government has developed payment policies that will decrease payments to hospitals with excess patient readmission levels. Early lessons learned from these current policy initiatives are examined in an article in Population Health Management.

In the report, Jessica Mittler, PhD, and her coauthors present findings to suggest that current readmission policies will produce “uncertain success.”

The authors identify three key obstacles to progress: 1) the difficulty of developing collaborative relationships across care settings; 2) gaps in evidence for effective interventions; and 3) deficits in quality-improvement capabilities among some organizations. According to the authors, these findings underscore the uncertainty of success of current readmission policies and suggest that immediate improvement in readmission rates through a change in reimbursement may be unlikely unless these other obstacles are addressed.

The authors propose specific strategies and interventions based on the development of collaborative relationships within the medical community and more coordinated care; on more evidence-based policy decisions; and on the importance of targeting improvement and incentives to individual institutions.

“Medicare has wisely moved away from the traditional fee-for-service model,” said David B. Nash, MD, MBA, Editor-in-Chief of Population Health Management. “The future belongs to those providers who work to establish collaborative relationships across the care community and invest in programs that keep patients out of the hospital.”

Sources: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.; March 5, 2013; and Liebert Open Access; February 25, 2013.

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