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How this health system reduced readmission rates to meet CMS requirements




An estimated 82 percent of hospitals receiving Medicare and Medicaid payments in fiscal year 2019 are expected to have their payments reduced because their readmission rates are too high.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services implemented the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program  to reduce the number of patients being readmitted to hospitals less than 30 days after leaving.

This program’s goal is to improve patient care. While  a number of factors influence hospital readmission rates, they often occur when patients are not communicating issues with their doctors or when more communication is needed between patient care teams. For example, when the attending physician in the Emergency Room (ER) doesn’t have the necessary background on a patient’s condition, a patient is more likely to be readmitted. This can lead to longer waits to get proper treatment.

To best serve patients by reducing hospital readmissions, healthcare organizations need to improve patient care coordination. Technology enhances communication among inpatient, outpatient, and long-term care teams, and it gives patients more of a stake in their own care.

Coordinating patient care

USMD WellMed Health System set a goal to significantly decrease its readmission rates, so it needed a way to alert physicians if their patients showed up in the emergency room, particularly within 30 days of leaving the hospital. The organization implemented Experian Health’s Care Coordination Manager and MemberMatch® solutions.

Care Coordination Manager provides a messaging platform for patients’ post-discharge care plans, which is a secure place for patients and providers to communicate. It helps hospitals and health systems provide solutions for 30-day and 90-day management of health episodes.

In one case, a doctor was able to intervene when a patient with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease showed up in the ER. The doctor was notified, spoke to the ER physician, and developed a course of action that allowed the patient to go home without being admitted to the hospital. In addition to avoiding hospital readmission penalties, USMD WellMed provided better care with the service and made the patient happier as well.

While healthcare professionals agree  there is a growing need to help patients become more engaged in their care, many are uncertain about the tools and opportunities to make it happen. Care Coordination Manager introduces an easy way for patients themselves to communicate with their providers and get clarifications on follow-up care.

USMD WellMed also implemented MemberMatch, which lets Accountable Care Organizations (ACO), ESRD Seamless Care Organizations (ESCO), and health plans better manage members’ clinical episodes by alerting care managers when a patient is admitted, discharged or shows up in the ER.

Doctors appreciate notifications

Despite the numerous benefits of reducing hospital readmissions, there was one major reservation when the phone alerts were implemented. While USMD’s physicians wanted to be more attuned to their patients’ needs, they were worried that they would be inundated with text notifications.

The program was initially limited to high-risk patients. But once physicians started getting the alerts, they immediately realized the benefits . Some doctors even asked to expand the platform to all of their patients.

Ultimately, this tool improved both USMD WellMed’s provider and patient satisfaction. USMD WellMed was able to reach its goal of significantly reducing readmission rates in a short period of time, according to Dr. Bryan Demarie Sr., Market Medical Director of USMD WellMed.

The Care Coordination Manager helps physicians and patients take a more proactive approach to treatment by handling problems before they escalate to another stay in the hospital. Opening the lines of communication allowed the healthcare organization to meet its readmission goals, improve patient care and save USMD WellMed from costly penalties.

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