News Updates – The Effects of Healthcare Reform

Published July 27, 2013

Our biweekly news updates are designed to keep you up to date with current developments relating to the Acute Care Continuum. Feel free to share your perspective on these stories or link to articles that you have found relevant to today’s healthcare environment.

Medicare Considering a Star Rating System for Hospitals

Following the likes of Yelp, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is considering implementing a more easily understood “star rating system” to assist patients in comparing quality between hospitals and health systems. In its recently released proposed rules to hospitals, CMS asked for suggestions on "how we may better display this information on the Hospital Compare Web site. One option we have considered is aggregating measures in a graphical display, such as star ratings." The current Hospital Compare website has been criticized as being too difficult for patients to navigate as more and more quality information has been added. Both medical groups and policymakers question CMS’ ability to convert large amounts of patient and quality data into a simple and accurate rating system.

Physician Mentoring Leads to Reduced Hospital Readmissions

A program developed by the Society of Hospital Medicine has shown limited success at reducing hospital readmission rates. “Project BOOST (Better Outcomes by Optimizing Safe Transitions) Mentoring Program focuses on identifying patients at highest risk for readmissions, communicating discharge plans effectively, and ensuring close follow-up through phone calls and timely doctors' appointments.” Physician mentors play a key role in implementing the BOOST toolkit at participating hospitals. Hospitals that partook in the study reported, on average, a 14.7 percent reduction in readmission rates. Unfortunately, only 11 of the original 30 participating hospitals chose to report results.

Hospital Patient Volumes Continue to Fall

In a recent earnings forecast, Community Health Systems, the second-largest health system in the country, predicted that its inpatient admissions will decline by as much as 3 percent by the end of 2013. This news, which comes on the heels of a similar report from Tenet Healthcare, could reflect a nationwide trend of decreasing admissions. Although no one factor is attributed to the decline, administrators believe rising patient insurance deductibles and a shift of services to the outpatient setting are contributing to the drop-off. Increased pressure from CMS to reduce readmission rates and curb one-day admissions might also explain the decline.

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