South Carolina had the ninth best improvement among states in preventing patients from quickly returning to hospitals in 2012-2013, an indication of the success of a partnership aimed at attacking that problem.
A statewide effort helped reduce the rate of patients returning to hospitals within 30 days by 15 percent in 2012 and 2013, according to Medicare claims data. That translates into 1,400 hospitals stays avoided, saving more than $14 million.
Because Medicare began reducing payments to hospitals nationally based on 30-day readmission rates, efforts to improve those rates were ramped up in every state. In South Carolina, the effort was tagged Preventing Avoidable Readmissions Together, with the backing of the S.C. Partnership for Health, the state’s Medicare Quality Improvement Organization and the Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence.
Hospitals used various strategies. Most began with improving communication with patients before they left the hospital, letting them know what was expected of them in terms of medication, doctors’ visits and generally taking care of themselves. Once patients left hospitals, the effort continued with phone calls, home health visits and an open line of communication between hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, said Theresa Seaberg, program manager for patient safety with The Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence.
The full nationwide Medicare data, through December 2013, hasn’t been published yet but was made available to the Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence. Even with the improvement, 17.4 of every 100 Medicare patients released after hospital admission in S.C. is readmitted within 30 days.
In addition to ranking ninth in readmissions improvement, South Carolina ranked fourth in admissions improvement. That indicates community programs to treat chronic conditions also have helped keep patients from being admitted to hospitals.
“It is especially gratifying for South Carolina to be included in the top 10 of a national health initiative,” said Jim Deyling, president of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and board chair of Partnership for Health. “This effort showed the power of what can be accomplished when we work together to achieve a common goal.”