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Oklahoma hospitals work to lower readmission rates, improve care

In Oklahoma, efforts to reduce 30-day readmissions in the last two years have prevented more than 3,000 readmissions to Oklahoma hospitals, which translates to about $29 million in cost savings to Medicare, according to estimates from the Oklahoma Foundation for Medical Quality.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: February 24, 2013

In 2009, more than 7 million people on Medicare experienced more than 12 million inpatient hospitalizations, according to the federal health agency.

One in three Medicare patients who leave the hospital today will be back in the hospital within a month, according to the agency.

These types of errors lead to “significant unnecessary health care spending,” with hospital readmissions costing Medicare an estimated $26 billion in 2009, according to the agency.

For the first year, hospitals were penalized up to 1 percent of the amount of Medicare money they received. Through the years, that percentage will continue to increase.

In Oklahoma, 90 hospitals faced an average penalty of .22 percent of their Medicare money, according to Kaiser Health News.

Midwest Regional Medical Center was one of the Oklahoma hospitals that was penalized the full 1 percent.

Other Oklahoma hospitals penalized 1 percent include Choctaw Memorial Hospital in Hugo, Eastern Oklahoma Medical Center in Poteau, Harmon Memorial Hospital in Hollis, Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa, Medical Center of Southeastern Oklahoma in Durant and Pushmataha Hospital in Antlers, according to Medicare data reported through Kaiser Health News.

To combat readmission rates, hospitals across Oklahoma and the nation are becoming more involved in what happens to patients after they leave.

Some hospitals are setting up follow-up appointments before the patient ever leaves the hospitals. Some have staff members who call patients a few days after they've left to check on them.

Tackling the issues around why a patient is readmitted isn't easy.

Moye said part of it, though, is sitting down with the patient and figuring out what's going on at home. These aren't easy conversations to have with patients.

Sometimes they cry.

Sometimes they say things like, “I had to pay the light bill so I couldn't have my prescription filled” or “If I take my pills every other day, I can make them last two months.”

Moye said she and other staff members connect patients who need financial assistance with different organizations, such as the United Way, that can help them with the problems they face.

“If you sit there with the patient and say, ‘This is your heart — Let's get your heart to where you can enjoy your life,' and you really and truly partner with that patient, then you're going to get levels of compliance that you've never gotten before,” Moye said.

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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