Report Calls Hospitals a Revolving Door for Elderly

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    The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation studied the readmission rates at hospitals including some in North Texas. (Published Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013)

    A national study revealed that a majority of hospitals in North Texas' largest cities have a revolving door for its elderly patients.

    The NBC 5 Investigates Consumer Unit analyzed the North Texas data in a national study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. While the study revealed that one in six nonsurgical patients in this country had to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of being discharged, the numbers were even higher at a majority of hospitals in North Texas' largest cities -- Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington and Plano.

    The findings are based on 2010 readmission rates from hospitals across the country. The study is called "The Revolving Door: A report on U.S. Hospital Readmissions." It blames high readmission rates on a number of factors including differences in patient health status, quality of in-patient care, care coordination and the availability of primary care.

    Of North Texas' four largest cities, Heart Hospital Baylor had the highest nonsurgical readmission rate of 22.6 percent compared to the national rate of 15.9 percent. Texas Health Harris Methodist Southwest Fort Worth had the lowest in our area at 13.4 percent.

    For surgical patients, Heart Hospital Baylor in Plano again had the highest readmission rate of 15.7 percent compared to the national rate of 12.4 percent USMD Hospital at Arlington had the lowest rate at 6.1 percent.

    Asked how hospitals should reduce the number of readmissions, NBC chief medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman said: "If you look at the racial and socioeconomic population of your area, I would argue that one method doesn't work for everybody and it requires leadership to realize it's a national problem that must be fixed locally."

    She pointed to hospitals that have taken initiatives to reduce the rate like assigning health care officials to patients at the highest risk to educate them about how to care for themselves after they're discharged.

    Administrators at Heart Hospital Baylor in Plano tell NBC 5 investigates they've already put in place a number of initiatives to reduce their readmission rate. The hospital sent NBC 5 Investigates the following statement:

    "The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano, now six-years old, is a specialty facility focused on treating some of the most complex cardiovascular cases regionally and throughout the United States. Because of this, The Heart Hospital recognized the need two years ago for innovative approaches to the follow-up care of patients after they leave the hospital, as we know that is vital to preventing repeated hospital admissions. For example, we now fund nurse practitioners dedicated to visiting high-risk patients in their homes for up to three months after their stay at the hospital. We know these new and innovative approaches to follow-up care have been successful as we have published these data in a peer reviewed journal (1) and internal, more current data, show our overall readmission percentage at The Heart Hospital is 6%, one of the lowest readmission rates within the Baylor Health Care System which has ranked in the best 10% of U.S. hospital systems for readmissions based on analyses performed over the past 5 years by the American Hospital Association."

    Asked if patients should have reservations about being admitted to a hospital with a high readmission rate, Snyderman said no, but said patients should be aware of the rate and take measures to assure you remain healthy following discharge. She advises that you should have a written plan when you leave the hospital and you shouldn't hesitate to ask your health care team any questions.

    More patient tips on reducing readmission rates and the full national report can be found on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's website.