High-risk prescriptions, preventable hospitalizations among seniors are down

The number of preventable hospital admissions and high-risk drug prescriptions among Medicare beneficiaries have substantially decreased in recent years, a new report shows.

The percentage of Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized for a preventable condition, or a condition that could be treated through outpatient care, declined 23% between 2003 and 2012. That's according to a “report card” for senior healthcare released Wednesday by the Dartmouth Atlas Project. The report also found a slight decrease in 30-day readmission rates, from 16.2% of beneficiaries in 2008 to 15.5% in 2012.

Progress was also seen in the use of high-risk medications among Medicare beneficiaries. The percentage who received at least one prescription for a high-risk medication decreased almost 43% between 2006 and 2012, which the study's authors largely attribute to the 2010 removal from propoxyphene from the U.S. market.

The report also found the percentage of beneficiaries living in nursing homes has decreased, possibly due to new residential care communities offering seniors alternatives to nursing homes. Despite the decrease, the daily-use rate for nursing homes still remained higher than that of residential care communities and adult day centers.

The study's findings, broken down by geographic location, should drive further research and changes into the way healthcare is delivered to seniors living in the United States, the report's authors said.

“Older Americans have always faced special challenges in the ways they experience care. For some of the measures presented, we are still learning which rate is ‘right,'” the authors wrote. “It is now evident that certain strategies, such as improving care continuity and instituting high-quality shared decision-making, can improve the care experience for patients.”