Post-acute partnerships now have become a widespread strategy to reduce hospital readmissions, survey finds

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Hospital partnerships with post-acute providers can be considered a “key strategy” in reducing readmissions, according to market data gathered by executive advisory service Healthcare Intelligence Network.

The latest round of Medicare readmissions penalties began Wednesday and will be in effect through Sept. 30, 2015. During this time period, hospitals that have had the highest readmissions rates will see all their Medicare reimbursements slashed by up to 3%. This year's penalties will affect 433 more hospitals than in the last 12 months, and the average penalty has increased from 0.38% to 0.63%, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of government data.

Post-acute care providers should investigate their local hospitals' readmissions rates and approach them with plans for improvement through collaboration, experts have advised. Hospitals increasingly are forging these types of partnerships, the HIN information shows.

More than 50% of respondents to the HIN survey said they collaborated with post-acute providers in 2013, according to an executive summary of the findings. Responses came from 116 hospitals/health systems, primary care practices, health plans and other healthcare organizations.

Nearly 80% of respondents said they were working with a home health provider, making this the most common type of partnership. However, skilled nursing and hospice providers also are being engaged. Areas of focus include streamlined transitions, the survey results showed.

Hospitals also are doing more follow-ups after patients are discharged from the emergency department, according to a separate HIN survey on reducing avoidable ER visits. More than a third of the respondents to this year's survey reported placing phone calls to patients within 24 hours of discharge. In 2011, only 18% said they placed phone calls within two days of discharge.

The emergency department survey was conducted in August and results released in September. The hospital readmissions survey was conducted in December 2013. HIN released the report in January 2014 but only recently issued an official press release.