Summit Medical Group Lowering the Number of Hospital Readmissions to Well Below State Average
Monday, July 16, 2012 • 6:50am
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Despite a recent report that says New Jersey has high hospital readmission rates of its Medicare patients, the head of Summit Medical Group said they’ve taken definitive steps to remedy the problem – and it’s working.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert W. Brenner said that across the country, most hospitals have a 20 percent readmission rate at the 30-day mark. Summit Medical Group has cut its readmission rate to nine percent by taking steps that Brenner said are not rocket science, but important.
SMG starts with risk stratification – assessing the patients who are being discharged, where they were in the hospital (such as ICU), even when they were discharged.
“If you’re discharged on a Friday afternoon, for example, we find there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be going back to the hospital,” Brenner explained. “If you spent any time in ICU, you’re also at risk for going back. We realized we had to analyze our own data and the health of our hospital population.”
Brenner said through their research and other findings, SMG discovered that if patients don’t know which medications they’re taking, it can cause them to end up back in the hospital. To prevent such issues, they have assigned a nurse practitioner to deal with every hospital discharge and make sure the patient understands which medicine they’re to take, which other medicines to stop taking if necessary, and what the proper dosages are.
“We thought it worthwhile to reconcile everyone’s medicine and electronic heath records,” Brenner said. “We go over it with every patient and their caregiver or significant other to make sure they understand.”
Another factor that keeps patient readmissions down: appropriate follow-up. SMG has begun a pilot program with the Somerset Visiting Nurse Association in which the nurses telemonitor patients who have been released from the hospital. They make sure the patients are taking their medication correctly, following any instructions they may have received when they were discharged, and scheduling the required follow-up visits to their personal physicians.
“We’ve taken our readmission rate down to nine percent,” Brenner said. “And we have good rates going out to 90 days.”
Even in nursing homes, whose patients have historically kept the proverbial revolving door moving at the hospital, SMG is doing all it can to reduce readmissions. Brenner said they’re now showing a dramatically reduced readmission rate thanks to a nurse practitioner and a geriatrician who work directly in the nursing home.
“We started the program six months ago, and we already have firm data that shows our patients’ chance of being readmitted is down by one-sixth,” he said. “You can’t do that unless you’re an integrated group, and I’m happy to be part of large multi-speciality group where we have means to put these things in place. It’s not rocket science, it’s just common sense but you have to have the resources to accomplish that.”