Hospitals aim to improve readmission rates

Local hospitals are taking measures that would help prevent some patients from being readmitted for illnesses they were treated for.

St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam and Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville both say they have low readmission rates, but the hospitals are aiming to do better.

Last year, Medicare began levying financial penalties against hospitals that had what Medicare considers to be too many readmissions.

Most hospitals in the state are facing readmission penalties from Medicare.

According to the nonprofit Kaiser Health News, Nathan Littauer faces a 0.46 percent Medicare readmissions penalty for 2013. The hospital has a readmission rate of 11.7 percent, according to the most recent figures available, the hospital says.

St. Mary’s faces no Medicare penalty.

Dr. Tim Shoen, medical director for St. Mary’s Hospital, said out of the 165 hospitals in New York state, St. Mary’s was one of 15 to have a readmission rate acceptable to Medicare.

Dr. John Fedullo, St. Mary’s medical director for continuum services, said St. Mary’s is moving forward in trying to lower the number of patients who have had to re-enter the hospital within a few weeks or a month of their first visit.

Since St. Mary’s began to follow the new Medicare guidelines, it has seen a 10 percent drop in readmissions, Shoen said.

Some patients, however, have to be readmitted because of the nature of their illness.

“Some patients, by the nature of their disease, require more and more treatment than others,” Shoen said.

Fedullo said new services to be offered at the planned Outpatient Health Center Pavilion at the hospital’s Memorial campus on Route 30 would help to lower readmission rates.

The pavilion will create about 20 new jobs, contain a new Cancer Medicine Center, a breast health center, a medical imaging center, laboratory services, and eventually an urgent care facility.

“[This] will lead to the expansion of patient-centered health care services and increasing accessibility to quality health care close to home,” St. Mary’s spokeswoman Jerri Cortese said in a news release.

Cortese said the project would be done in phases. The first phase, which includes construction of the pavilion, may be completed in 2015.

Another new facility at St. Mary’s, the transitional care unit, opened on the third floor at the Memorial campus.

Fedullo said the main goal of the unit is to make sure the patients are rehabilitated properly before they are released.

“It decreases risk and barriers,” Fedullo said.

Fedullo said hospital officials hope to use the new programs to decrease issues that appear with some treatment of older patients, such as pneumonia.

“Post-acute care medicine is basically continuing to to treat those comorbid symptoms,” Fedullo said.

With regular check-ups, Fedullo said, this program would help prevent more people from returning to the hospital.

St. Mary’s and Nathan Littauer have been working on ways to increase the quality of care by making sure patients are informed about what they should do in medical emergencies.

According to Dr. Frederick Goldberg, vice president and chief medical officer at Nathan Littauer Hospital, the hospital’s readmission rate has gone down.

He said the main reason for this is constant followup care and treatments.

Rather than just releasing patients with a few brief instructions, Goldberg said, the hospital is using methods such as medication reconciliation, in which a patient and doctors learn what the patient is taking, what she has at home, and what she shouldn’t mix.

“We do medication reconcilation before they enter and do it at every transition of care,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg said this could drop readmissions for medical complications such as mixing meds.

Also, Goldberg said the hospital is having professionals sit down with patients leaving the hospital and going through all the necessary steps to treating and managing their conditions, rather than briefing them quickly.

Followup phone calls are also made to the patient to ensure followup appointments have been scheduled and that everything is working out.

Melissa Stock, manager of the clinical resource management department at St. Mary’s, said she did not have a readmission rate for her hospital, but the hospital wants to reduce the rate by 20 percent this year.