Healthcare News & Insights

How health IT can help cut readmission rates

Penalties will increase for hospitals with high readmission rates starting October 1. Here are some ways health IT can help. 

doctorIn October, the maximum penalty will rise to 2% of a provider’s Medicare payments. As we reported earlier, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has identified over 2,000 hospitals in almost every state that are slated to receive cuts to their reimbursement this fall.

The total dollar amount for those fines is expected to add up to $53 million. That number will likely continue to rise in the future — in the 2015 fiscal year, the maximum penalty will go up again to 3%.

New tech tools

What can hospitals do to reduce readmissions and avoid those penalties? Experts say one key is effectively following up with patients after they’re discharged.

And many hospitals are finding that health IT tools can help, according to a recent Washington Post article.

The article describes one hospital that began using an application that pulls data from patients’ records and creates personalized instructions for patients to follow after they’re discharged from the facility. Hospital employees print out those instructions for patients, who can also access the information online.

Previously, hospital officials said, patients were given a two-page document that met Medicare requirements but wasn’t very easy for patients to understand.

After using the software tool, the hospital reduced its readmission rate for Medicare patients by 1.25 percentage points to around 8.5%.

Hospitals turning to telehealth

In addition to tools that help manage patient communications, hospitals have also used telehealth and remote monitoring to help reduce readmissions.

For example, in a study published last year, one Pennsylvania hospital significantly reduced readmission rates for patients who participated in a telehealth program.

Geisinger Health Plan in Danville, PA, began using remote monitoring tools to keep track of symptoms for approximately 1,000 heart patients over a two-year period. For those patients, 30-day readmission rates were 44% lower than for similar patients who weren’t involved in the the telehealth program.

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