As healthcare takes center stage nationally, one website may provide part of the solution. Hospital Compare, a website intended to make it easier for consumers to make informed decisions by comparing hospitals’ services and procedures, has recently added a “readmission” category to its exhaustive list of medical conditions and surgical procedures.
The website was created through the efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and other members of the Hospital Quality Alliance.
“30-Day Readmission” is when patients who have had a hospital stay need to go back into any hospital again within 30 days of their discharge. According to a report released by CMS, research has shown that readmissions account for 20 percent of Medicare cases. “A number of these readmission cases are preventable if hospitals take the time to provide adequate patient education,” said Tony Salters, CMS public affairs specialist. He noted, however, that it is “hard to identify the exact number [of preventable readmissions] because there are some cases where patient readmission is unavoidable.”
Salter said that the readmission rates may vary depending on whether the hospital is capable of handling a greater number of patients. For instance, larger hospitals may handle more severe and emergency situations; therefore the number of Medicare and Medicaid patients they receive may be higher, adding to their number of patient readmissions.
Cottage Hospital is the largest emergency-capable hospital between Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to the report, yet its readmission rate for patients who experience heart failure or pneumonia is lower than the national average. Only eight other California hospitals, out of 346 in the state, had a readmission rate lower than the national average for patients with heart failure, and only seven had a lower-than-average readmission rate for patients with pneumonia.
Santa Barbara’s Marian and Lompoc Medical Centers, like most California hospitals, fall within the average range for readmission rates, which are between 18 to 25 percent depending on the diagnosis.
Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital also ranks above the national average in performing correct services and procedures in most areas, such as administering drugs at the right time, having nurses take care of patients properly, and having doctors be friendly with their patients. Marian Medical Center in Santa Maria scored even higher than Cottage Hospital in some of the same areas.
By adding hospital readmission rates to its website, CMS hopes to improve the quality of care in hospitals nationwide, while aiding families in choosing the right hospital for them. Charlene Frizzera, CMS’s acting administrator, said in a press release that “Readmission rates will help consumers identify those providers in the community who are furnishing high-value healthcare with the best results.” However, Salters also sounded a note of caution. As it is better to readmit a patient than to have them go without needed help, there is “no true way of knowing the best rate when it comes to readmissions,” she said.