ANN ARBOR, Mich. & ENGLEWOOD, Colo.--()--A new report suggests that communities where hospitals, other health care providers, and community services work together to coordinate evidence-based hospital discharges and provide better support in the community, can see a 6 percent drop in hospitalizations and rehospitalizations, per 1,000 beneficiaries, in just the first two years. This project relied upon Medicare’s Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs) to anchor and guide the work, and the average community netted about $3 million dollars in annual savings for Medicare.
“This project took an unusual, yet ultimately effective, approach to improving care transitions”
These findings were released today by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in “Associations between quality improvement for care transitions in communities and rehospitalizations among Medicare beneficiaries.”
For this project, 14 QIOs, led by the Colorado Foundation for Medical Care (CFMC) as a national coordinator, participated in a three-year project in which the QIOs convened medical, community, and social service providers and facilitated community-wide quality improvement activities to implement evidence-based improvements in patient care transitions. The QIOs’ efforts included community organizing, technical assistance in implementing best practices, and monitoring of participation, implementation, effectiveness, and adverse effects.
QIOs in each state and territory, funded by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), help achieve national quality goals through focused efforts at the community and provider level. The QIO Program focuses on three aims: better patient care, better population health, and lower health care costs through improvement.
“This project took an unusual, yet ultimately effective, approach to improving care transitions,” said Dr. Jane Brock, chief medical officer at CFMC and lead author for the JAMA article. “Rather than focus on one hospital ward, or one hundred patients, it engaged whole communities to improve care for large geographically-defined populations, and it worked!”
Care transitions—when patients move from one care setting to another—mark perilous points in patient care. As many as 20 percent of Medicare beneficiaries need to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge, often due to complications associated with transitions or support in the community. With health care reform, hospitals that do not reduce avoidable 30-day readmissions face Medicare financial penalties. In addition, physicians and certain community-based organizations are incentivized to improve practices.
“This work focused on every aspect of hospital discharges for all Medicare beneficiaries in a geographic area, and brought providers together to confront their problems and offer evidence-based care transition support,” said Dr. Joanne Lynn, director of Altarum Institute’s Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness, and corresponding author for the JAMA article. “Care transition professionals confronted the often-unnoticed effects of errors between settings and were motivated by the unnecessary suffering of their patients, clients, and families to improve overall care.”
In addition to the statistics revealing better community care, this paper also marks what may be the first time that JAMA has published a project using quality improvement (QI) methods to measure and report outcomes, including process control charts. This approach is a substantial difference from the formality and context-blind nature of a randomized clinical trial. With the QI approach, participants focus on the system and aim for improvements with ongoing monitoring, rather than setting up a research project to test whether a particular intervention is effective. Publishing QI work represents a profound change in the openness of American medicine to learn not only what works for a patient but what works for the delivery system.
Efforts to build on this work are already underway, such as the Partnership for Patients, the Community-based Care Transitions Program, and coalition-based care transitions work led by QIOs in every state. New federal rules allow physicians to bill Medicare for certain care coordination activities, and hospital penalties for high readmissions rates will escalate over the next two years. The community-based approach to addressing readmissions offers a new way of thinking about how to affect positive change.
“This has far reaching implications for the future of health care at any level,” said Dr. Brock. “When a community works together to improve care at the system level, everyone involved will see the positive effects.”
For additional information on this project, or to speak with the authors, QIO project managers in the 14 communities, or leading care transition experts, please visit www.altarum.org/QIOPaper or www.cfmc.org/integratingcare/Press.
Colorado Foundation for Medical Care (CFMC), a nonprofit corporation, is the Medicare Quality Improvement Organization for Colorado. CFMC works directly with health care providers and other partners to improve health care quality, outcomes, experience and value for patients. CFMC’s vision is to serve as a world-class catalyst for Health Care Improvement Science through innovation, collaboration and system optimization. For more information, visit www.cfmc.org
Altarum Institute (www.altarum.org) integrates objective research and client-centered consulting skills to deliver comprehensive, systems-based solutions that improve health and health care. Altarum employs more than 400 individuals and is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich., with additional offices in the Washington, DC., area; Atlanta, Ga.; Portland, Maine; and San Antonio, Texas.
This material was prepared by CFMC, the Medicare Quality Improvement Organization for Colorado, under contract with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The contents presented do not necessarily reflect CMS policy.PM-4010-014 CO 2013.