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Reducing Hospital Bouncebacks

Zachary Meisel and Jesse Pines examine the issue of hospital “bouncebacks” — patients who return to the hospital shortly after discharge: “[B]ouncebacks are massively expensive-a recent?study?of Medicare patients found that one in five admissions results in a bounceback within 30 days of discharge, costing the federal government an estimated $17.4 billion per year.”? In the face of new policies that will punish hospitals with higher readmission rates, hospitals are experimenting with programs aimed at improving discharge planning and encouraging attendance of post-hospitalization doctor appointments.? Hospitals are also hiring “transition coaches” and collaborating with outpatient doctors to ensure comprehensive care.? The data on such measures is limited, however, and it’s hospitals that serve the poor that will be most vulnerable to the new policies.? “This type of outside-the-walls thinking is transformational for hospitals and is, at the highest level, a good thing,” write Meisel and Pines. “It’s just unclear whether the best way to bring these changes is through financial penalties based around a less than perfect measure of hospital quality.”[%comments]