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East Bay Hospitals Fined by Medicare for Excessive Readmissions

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Oakland Local

A Kaiser Permanente study found that communication between departments, patient education, clear instructions about medications and an advice line were key to preventing excessive readmissions.

The Center for Health Reporting reveals that 276 hospitals are paying a new Medicare penalty - Oakland Local research shows 4 of 6 local hospitals are also getting hit with the fine. 

The penalty fees are only given to hospitals that have high patient readmission rates. Once patients have been released from care, if they return to the hospital in less than 30 days, that is considered a "re-admit."

Oakland and nearby city hospitals with fines are the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, Alameda County Medical Center, Alameda Hospital, and San Leandro Hospital. While their fines are not among the highest in the state, they are significant - ranging from .27 percent to .75 percent. The maximum fine is 1 percent.

Not on the list? One of the Alta Bates facilities in Berkeley and Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Oakland received no fines. Their readmission rates were at acceptable levels.  

Kaiser staff attribute their results to a set of strategies that were identified by studying 600 readmit cases from 2009. Kaiser's approach includes communication between departments via electronic medical records, education efforts for both patients and caregivers and phone calls to patients from specialized staff and from patients to an advice line about any symptoms that may come up after leaving the hospital. Their research was published in Medical Care Journal last year. 

According to the Kaiser Permanente Northern California quality and regulatory services office, "It’s important to understand that the primary contributor to readmission is not early discharge of patients. Readmissions can be reduced by what happens after discharge – close follow-up, better instructions for taking medication, timely appointments for outpatient care, and someone to call if complications arise."

Source: Oakland Local [http://m.oaklandlocal.com/article/several-east-bay-hospitals-fined-medicare-due-excessive-readmissions]

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