Monday, April 20, 2009

Medicare Program Urges Reduction of Hospital Readmissions

Fourteen regions across the nation have been chosen as pilot areas for the Care Transitions Project, which will attempt to cut down on the number of patients that return to hospitals for continuing treatment. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which has been monitoring readmission rates in these designated areas for some time, hopes to eliminate unnecessary returns to hospitals by educating patients on how to treat their own chronic illnesses from their homes. Naomi Hauser, Director of the Care Transitions Project in Pennsylvania, says this is an effort to localize health services to a community level. "Patients need to understand that they can identify some of their symptoms, be able to contact their physicians and work with physicians in the community, rather than go to the emergency room or go to the hospital for acute management of their symptoms," says Hauser. Hauser says since many readmissions are due to misuse or misunderstanding of medication, much of the program's energies will be focused on teaching correct ways for patients to deal with meds. Each of the fourteen pilot areas will approach the program in a unique way; the Pennsylvania pilot will implement "transition coaches," who will meet the patient while they are at the hospital and continue to check up on them through phone calls and home visits. Allegheny, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland Counties were included in the three-year Western Pennsylvania pilot.

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