Posted Tuesday, January 21, 2014 --- 5:25 a.m.
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- More than 100 Wisconsin hospitals have been collaborating to improve the quality of health care, and their efforts have paid off with a decrease in costly outcomes such as readmissions and hospital-associated infections, according to a report released Tuesday.
Hospital officials around the state have spent the past few years stepping up efforts to share knowledge and best practices associated with patient care. The result has been better care and cost savings of nearly $40 million since mid-2012, the Wisconsin Hospital Association said.
Hospitals have been looking to cut costs as their Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates decline. The new health care law requires Medicare to reduce payments to hospitals that have an excessive number of readmissions, so there's an additional incentive to improve patient outcomes.
Hospital teams logged into monthly online sessions to collaborate on health care strategies that have worked well and figure out how to improve, the report said. The teams also discussed ways to make sure patients understand how to comply with their post-hospital instructions and shared ways to cut down on adverse reactions to medications.
Since 2012, an estimated 3,556 discharged patients avoided having to be readmitted to hospitals, saving about $34 million.
"When improvement work reduces hospital-associated infections and readmissions it translates into cost savings, and that is a value for patients, employers and insurers," association president Steve Brenton said in a statement.
The report said efforts to reduce readmissions were already under way before the new health care law passed, the report said, and included calling patients who'd been sent home but were still at risk of infection and spending more time educating patients and their families on how to continue the recovery process.
For example, the University of Wisconsin Health Partners medical center in Watertown has implemented a health transition program. Patients are seen by transitions staff while still in the hospital, and receive follow-up calls or visits after they're released. The report said that the hospital saw its readmission rate drop by 7 percent.
Hospital officials also collaborated on ways to reduce costs in the delivery room, particularly with early deliveries. The report said statistics indicated more mothers were requesting deliveries after 39 weeks of pregnancy for personal or medical reasons. However, in 5 percent of early births, the baby needs to be admitted to neonatal intensive care, at an average cost of about $15,000.
As a result of the statewide conversations, officials devised a set of criteria to limit early elective deliveries to cases with specific medical needs. Some hospitals have started a scheduling process that prohibits an inappropriately early delivery, and the report says educating mothers has helped reduce patient demand.
The effort meant 291 more babies in the past 18 months were delivered at the appropriate time, the hospital association said.
Copyright 2014: Associated Press