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A couple of days ago, the readmissions problem got some long-overdue mainstream exposure in the form of an Associated Press article: “No one fix to slow hospital readmission epidemic.”
It cites a new report from Dartmouth Atlas that features an interactive map of the U.S., with Medicare data on how readmission rates vary from region to region. According to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation press release on the report, “The highest regional rate for 30-day medical readmissions was 18.1 percent in Bronx, NY, compared to a low of 11.4 percent in Ogden, Utah. The national average was 15.9 percent.” The Bronx also had the highest regional rate for 30-day surgical readmissions at 18.3%. Surgical readmissions were lowest in Bend, OR, which had a 7.6% rate, compared to a national average of 12.4%.
According to the AP, the Dartmouth Atlas data comes from Medicare records from between 2008 and 2010. It doesn’t offer much in the way of explaining why these regional differences exist, although it does seem to discount the idea that big-city hospitals have higher rates because their patients are “sicker or poorer” – noting, for example, that Minneapolis had rates lower than the national average.
More importantly, it addresses what families and caregivers can do to help reduce the likelihood that their loved ones will bounce back into the hospital. To that end, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation this week started its new “Care About Your Care” initiative – “ a month-long effort to focus attention on the national problem of avoidable readmissions, spotlight how hospitals and communities are working to improve care, and help patients understand their role,” according to the RWJF release. (RWJF is holding a webcast about the initiative Feb. 13 at 12:30 ET.)
The AP article quotes Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of RWJF, as saying, “Everyone has to understand their role in improving the quality of care, including families. This could be a time when we turn the corner.”
All I can say is, I certainly hope so.