Can Health IT Reduce Readmissions?

Posted on August 15, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

We who work around health IT know it can do some great tricks, but it’s always nice to see examples of how it can actually save money.  One example of how health IT can be a cost-saver is in helping to reduce readmissions, according to a new study from CSC.  Here’s a summary of how it might work, courtesy of CMIO magazine:

Reducing readmissions will require identifying patients at risk for readmission, carefully orchestrated care management programs and patient-specific transition pathways. While this type of patient tracking, collaboration and patient-centeredness has been historically difficult to achieve, health IT should enable more organized care management through tools such as e-prescribing, master patient indexes and electronic clinical communication.

The report notes, however, that this works much better if hospitals and health systems have integrated EMRs that extend from the facility into community medical practices.  And that’s just common sense. After all, hospitals aren’t equipped to check on patients regularly once they’re discharged, aside perhaps from a few that are experimenting with remote monitoring.

The thing is, given that hospitals and medical practices are seldom running the same systems, it’s unlikely (OK, almost impossible) that they’ll be able to share much in the way of digital information. Sure, they’ll get faxes galore, but if that was an efficient way to share docs we wouldn’t be having these conversations.

Oh well. It’s always good for deep thinker types to point the way ahead. Unfortunately, I think we’ll have to wait a while for coordinated care planning via health IT to really find its place. Maybe John’s predictions for Direct Project will help us get part of the way there.