Politico had an interesting article on a major Medicare quality initiative, highlighted in The Journal of the American Medical Association, that has reduced readmissions by nearly 6 percent compared with similar communities over two years. The 2010 health reform law includes penalties for hospitals that have particularly high rates of repeat admissions for three specific diseases. The law also creates incentives and programs through Medicare for hospitals to improve discharges and the transition from the hospital back to the community.
The authors estimate that in an average community with 50,000 Medicare patients, spending $1 million on relatively simple steps to curb hospitalizations would save $4 million per year on hospital bills alone. The solutions that these communities found included linking medical and social services. They also made a point of teaching patients and families to do more self-care.