New readmissions initiative to rely heavily on technology

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New readmissions initiative  to rely heavily on technology
New readmissions initiative to rely heavily on technology
Applied technology is likely to play a role in a new federal initiative designed to reduce hospital readmissions.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is setting aside $128 million for organizations that establish readmission reduction programs with nursing homes. Participants will collaborate with states and nursing facilities, with each enhanced care and coordination provider implementing its intervention in at least 15 partnering nursing facilities.

Physician groups, accountable care organizations and other independent entities would be eligible.

“We expect to see some innovative participants that harness new technology,” said Melanie Bella, director of CMS's Medicare-Medicaid Coordination Office. She said that nursing homes can benefit by improving their quality scores during surveys. Moreover, facilities will be better equipped to reduce rehospitalizations while better managing the conditions that fuel them, she added.

Bella noted that as many as 45% of hospital readmissions from nursing homes could be avoided. CMS estimates that costs associated with preventable readmissions exceed $17 billion each year.

Larry Minnix, the president and CEO of LeadingAge, said the organization applauds CMS for seeking “evidence-based solutions to reducing rehospitalization rates among nursing home residents.”

Reducing rehospitalizations has become a national issue. There are two main reasons why: They are often expensive and preventable. 

Technology is one way to identify which residents are at a high risk for readmissions, experts say. And there's a strong incentive to start gathering data: Beginning in October, CMS will begin penalizing hospitals with high readmission rates. The initial penalty will be 1% of total Medicare billings for readmissions within 30 days of an initial discharge. The penalty goes up to 2% in fiscal year 2014 and 3% in 2015.