Indiana hospitals fined for patient readmissions

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (AP) — About 80 percent of Indiana's hospitals face penalties totaling $12 million for having too many patients who returned for care within a month of their discharge, according to the federal government.

A September report from the Centers from Medicare and Medicaid Services examined figures for patients who returned from July 2014 to July 2017, The Indianapolis Business Journal reported. Patients returned after being hospitalized for heart failure, heart attacks, pneumonia, chronic lung disease, hip and knee replacements, and coronary-artery bypass graft surgeries, the report said.

Medicare payments at 66 Indiana hospitals will be docked a total of $12 million next year, an increase from $9 million in penalties three years ago. Only 17 Indiana hospitals weren't penalized. Another 37 hospitals are exempt from penalties because they serve veterans, children and psychiatric patients, are critical-access hospitals or have too few cases.

Readmissions are often unnecessary and cost taxpayers billions of dollars a year, the federal government said. Readmissions often indicate treatment that should've been prescribed during the first visit or treatment that wasn't adequately followed up, officials said.

"It's a complex problem and I think all the hospitals are trying to do better, improve the quality," said David Blish, director of health care consulting at Katz Sapper & Miller in Indianapolis. "It's a major management focus in every facility."

Community Health Network said many of the readmissions at its hospitals are the result of readmissions from nursing home patients with severe conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and pneumonia.

Community Health officials are trying to address the problem by sending community nurse practitioners, pharmacists and social workers to the homes of discharged patients to ensure they continue to receive proper care.

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