South Central PA Ranks Better than US Average

(York, Pa.) – While the release of the new Dartmouth Atlas Project report shows little progress in reducing readmissions within the nation's hospitals, South Central PA's percentages are looking better than the United States' averages.

The "After Hospitalization: A Dartmouth Atlas Report on Post-acute Care for Medicare Beneficiaries" compares readmission rates for patients over a five-year period. The 2009 data indicates there is wide variation in 30-day readmission rates, which haven't decreased and in some cases rose between 2005 and 2009.

As the report shows, patients are being discharged from hospitals, but are coming back to the hospital within 30 days, when this readmission probably could have been avoided.

Reducing readmission rates is one of the many areas the Aligning Forces for Quality – South Central PA (AF4Q – South Central PA) alliance is focusing on, as it impacts patients' quality of care significantly.

AF4Q – South Central PA is one of 16 alliances across the nation that's part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Aligning Forces for Quality initiative. AF4Q – South Central PA is a unique collaboration of health care providers, insurers, patients, and employers who work together to help lift the overall quality of health care. The initiative aims to publicly report on the quality of local care and help patients become more engaged in the quality of care they can demand and receive.

According to Dr. Karen Jones, Physician Champion for AF4Q – South Central PA, "South Central PA is doing better than other regions listed in the report, and we feel the success is attributed to the strong primary care culture that exists in our communities. The quality and availability of primary care coupled with the degree of collaboration among area primary care physicians and specialists makes a difference. In the future, these data will improve because of the innovative work that is occurring through the AF4Q initiative."

Specifically, the report provided the following data:
·         percent of patients readmitted within 30 days of medical or surgical discharge;
·         percent of patients seeing a primary care clinician within 14 days of medical or surgical discharge to home;
·         percent of patients having an ambulatory visit within 14 days of medical or surgical discharge to home; and
·         percent of patients having an emergency room visit within 30 days of medical or surgical discharge.

In every category, South Central PA did better than the United States' averages. In particular, the percentage of patients seeing a primary care clinician within 14 days of medical discharge to home is 10% higher than the US average. Of those who fell in the surgical discharge to home category, South Central PA ranked three percent higher than the US average.

When comparing the data to the other AF4Q communities, South Central PA showed the least amount of patients re-visiting the emergency room within 30 days of medical or surgical discharge.

"When looking at readmission rates, and what is needed to improve them, you need communication, coordination and partnerships. In our community, all adult primary care practices of the WellSpan Medical Group and several community physician practices are recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as Patient-Centered Medical Homes. This means they're meeting the 2008 NCQA standards, and set up as a health care setting that facilitates partnerships between individual patients, and their personal physicians, and when appropriate, the patient's family," she stated.

"Through AF4Q – South Central PA and its Planned Care Collaborative initiative, we're helping practices meet the 2011 standards for Patient-Centered Medical Home recognition," added Dr. Jones.

In addition to communication and partnerships, reducing readmission rates involves patient engagement and education – all areas in which AF4Q – South Central PA is working on with area practices, hospitals, and even skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities.

According to Janet Cutsail, RN, BSN, CCM, CV-C of Hanover Hospital, AF4Q – South Central PA's nurses council is also collaborating with skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities to reduce readmissions and improve the care for older residents in the community.

"The hospital readmission rate for skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities can be high. Many factors affect avoidable readmissions, including poor communication. Therefore, we are starting to work with these groups, and implement a technique called SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation). This technique structures the communication between members of the health care team regarding a patient's condition. It sets expectations for what should be communicated, and how to do so with each member of the health care team," stated Cutsail.

"We're getting there; we're moving forward. Our strong point in this area is the availability of primary care practices, but also the interaction and relationships that are built, and continued to be built. We're proud of what we've done so far and where we stand," stated Dr. Jones.

About AF4Q – South Central PA
AF4Q – South Central PA is an initiative of Healthy York County Coalition, which has worked to bring together stakeholders from across the community and to unite them in health and wellness efforts since 1994. AF4Q – South Central PA was created in 2007, and is a unique collaboration of York and Adams counties' leaders working to improve the quality of health care. The I Can! Challenge, a 12-week challenge is a well-known program developed by AF4Q to give people the direction and support for improving their health. For more information on on AF4Q – South Central PA, visit www.aligning4healthpa.org.

For more information regarding this press release, please contact Megan Kurtz at 717-432-2468 or email at Megan@suasion.us.

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