Technology Solutions for Hospital Readmissions

Great news: the non-payment of preventable hospital readmissions could save up to $2.6 billion a year.  This sounds good, but it also represents a loss of revenue if hospitals cannot deliver on the outcomes.

Just about any hospital poll you read puts financial challenges at the top of the list for healthcare issues.  When you drill down deeper, reimbursement and costs both come to the top as non-payment for preventable hospital readmissions take effect.  However, what business can stay in the black if suddenly you did not get paid for over 13% of your services?

I asked Farrokh Alemi, PhD, professor of Health Systems Administration at Georgetown University’s College of Nursing and Health Studies in Washington, D.C., for his thoughts on how hospitals can address readmissions.  He stated, “There will always be hospital readmissions, but by changing practices, we can make an impact.  Two areas being targeted are pneumonia and heart failure.  These are areas where with best practices and better assessment of their condition before discharge, we can make a difference.”

I looked at several studies on best practices for heart patients and found that telemonitoring reduced their chances of being readmitted by 23%.  Another study found that incorporating cardiac parameters in telemonitoring technology showed a 53 to 62% reduction in patient’s stay and a 27 to 40% reduction in readmissions.  Telemonitoring a patient costs approximately $70 per month, making the costs well worth it.

Pneumonia was the second most common reason for hospital readmissions.  Researchers have indicated that prescribing the appropriate antibiotic earlier reduces the chance of an increased length of stay or a hospital readmission.  Furthermore, another study showed that the high specificity (95% plus) of molecular-based microbiology translated to reduced antimicrobial overuse and hospital readmissions.

Although molecular-based tests (DNA probes) cost twice as much as other technologies, the cost of a readmission is in the thousands.  When you look at your budget for next year, telemonitoring and molecular-based microbiology could save you a lot more than the upfront costs of the technology.

James Laskaris, EE, BME
James Laskaris, EE, BME, Clinical Analyst — Mr. James Laskaris is a senior emerging technology analyst at MD Buyline and has been with the company since 1994. With over 30 years of experience in the healthcare field, Mr. Laskaris is the primary analyst of high-end OR technology. He also covers issues related to the legislative and reimbursement effect on healthcare and authors a bimonthly “Issues that Matter” publication. Mr. Laskaris received his biomedical engineering degree from Southern Illinois University. His work has been published in hfm Magazine, Radiology Manager and Healthcare Purchasing News.