EMR Helps Philly Hospitals Reduce Readmissions

The pressure is on to reduce readmissions, and hospitals are hoping to leverage their ginormous investments in EMRs to help the job along.  Well, here’s a case where that actually happened.

A recent survey of 29 Philadelphia-based hospitals concluded that facilities submitting patient readmission data to the Health Care Improvement Foundation had seen a significant drop in readmissions over 18 months, according to Information Week.  The project, known as PAVE (Preventing Avoidable Episodes: Smoothing the Way for Better Transitions), focused on medication management, personal health record use and care transitions.

(Editor’s note: While IW once focused on broad enterprise IT issues, I’ve been impressed lately by the excellent job it’s done covering health IT. You may want to check it out.)

The 18 Philly hospitals that submitted the data saw a 7 percent drop in 30-day same-hospital readmission rates. More than 400 patients avoided readmission, representing a savings of $4 million just for the third quarter alone. That fell short of the project’s goal of a 10 percent reduction rate, but it’s pretty neat anyway, no?

The hospitals accomplished the readmissions reduction by building on tried and true quality improvement processes, largely focusing on transitions of care. But their efforts were enhanced greatly by EMRs and other forms of health data management, the magazine reports.

Having seen what can be done, nearly all of the hospitals are now implementing or evaluating a series of “passports,” documents compiling critical information on hospital care transitions, payor relations/utilization management, discharge and medication management. (My hunch is that the passports are being turned into pathways within the EMR; if I’m right, that seems like a real missed opportunity.)

Unfortunately, neither the  Health Care Improvement Foundation nor the magazine spelled out how the hospitals used their EMRs, though it’s obvious that they must of used data analytics tools.  And we don’t know which EMRs the hospitals have in place, which might offer some insights.

By the way, the PHR pilot was a bust. Researchers found that patients who’d get the most out of PHRs were least likely to maintain one. The group threw in the towel and developed a heart failure education book designed to educate patients in self-management.

All told, it’s good to see concrete demonstrations of  how EMRs can help hospitals meet critical goals.  While EMRs may still be a resource drain, perhaps they’ll finally be able to give something back.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.