On June 26, 2008, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) announced Florida will become the first state in the nation to publish data on potentially preventable hospital readmissions. The data, publicly available at www.FloridaHealthFinder.gov, is a powerful tool for consumers to consider when choosing a hospital. Because increased public access to quality of care data will lead to greater patient choice and better-informed consumers, hospitals are advised to improve their quality of care oversight. Hospitals should consider developing greater internal quality controls and increase information sharing between the quality and compliance departments, with particular attention to the data used for public reporting.
Floridahealthfinder.gov calculates a hospital’s readmission rate based on the number of patients readmitted to the same hospital or another short-term acute care hospital within 15 days of the original admission, for the same or a related condition. Between March 31, 2006 and March 31, 2007, AHCA tracked 54 conditions and procedures in 2.2 million adult hospital admissions. A total of 877,228 cases had one or more of the tracked conditions and procedures. Of those cases, AHCA identified 60,707 readmissions as potentially preventable. The data is valuable for patients interested in quality health care and for hospitals seeking to improve their discharge procedures.
AHCA’s effort is supported by the Florida Hospital Association (FHA), which issued a press release announcing a joint collaboration with AHCA to reduce readmission rates. “Hospital readmissions are often avoidable and always costly; by sharing this data we will help hospitals, providers and especially patients improve the discharge process and the delivery of health care,” stated AHCA Secretary Holly Benson in a press release. AHCA also announced it will develop tools for patients and providers to ensure quality care after a patient is discharged.
Florida’s effort is an important step toward improving quality of care and reflects a national trend toward greater transparency of quality through public reporting. Reporting quality of care data such as preventable readmission rates, will eventually lead to greater patient choice and create consumers who are better informed and more discerning about the hospital they choose. For this reason, hospitals must develop viable incentive structures to engage physicians and reward quality of care efforts. These new arrangements need to focus on quality, reducing waste, and promoting transparency and information sharing within the hospital to assist the hospital's own data-mining efforts. By mining its own quality data, a hospital can become more aware of its quality indicators, and thus address problems before the data is reported to the public.
Access Florida hospital readmissions data here: www.floridahealthfinder.gov.
Legal News Alert is part of our ongoing commitment to providing up-to-the minute information about pressing concerns or industry issues affecting our health care clients and colleagues. If you have any questions about this alert or would like to discuss this topic further, please contact your Foley attorney or any of the following individuals:
Tina E. Dunsford
Richard W. Johns
Gary D. Koch, M.D.
Nathaniel M. Lacktman
Robert E. Slavkin
Cheryl L. Wagonhurst
J. Mark Waxman