Preferred SNF networks help hospitals reduce readmissions faster, study finds

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Hospitals that use a preferred skilled nursing facility network have been found to reduce their readmission rates faster than hospitals that don't, new research shows.

The findings, published Tuesday in the September issue of Health Affairs, draw from Medicare claims data as well as interviews and site visits. The goal was to determine how hospitals fared after developing a formal skilled nursing network. Of the hospitals studied, four developed a preferred network, while 12 did not.

The hospitals that used a preferred network were able to reduce their readmission rates from skilled nursing facilities by 6.1 percentage points between 2009 and 2013, the study found. That's compared to a 1.6 percentage point drop in such readmissions to hospitals that did not have a network.

The overall changes in readmission rates were not as significant when the study's authors looked at both readmissions from skilled nursing facilities and patients' homes. Rates for hospitals with networks fell 3.7 percentage points, while non-network hospitals saw their rates decline by 2.1 percentage points.

The study also found that hospitals with preferred nursing networks “recognized that care management among patients transitioning to a SNF is just as important as managing patients discharged to home,” the authors wrote, due to those patients being sicker or having more complex health needs.

Hospitals reported the networks often reflected existing post-acute relationships, and spurred competition among other facilities to improve performance.