Improving care transitions would save money, but incentives needed

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Oct. 8, 2012

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Poor handling of patient transfers among health care sites costs the U.S. an estimated $12 billion annually, says a Sept. 13 Health Affairs report (link).

Several factors contribute to the problem, including incompatible computer systems that make sharing electronic medical records difficult among facilities and a fee-for-service payment system that disincentivizes investments to improve care transitions, the report said. Research has identified proven interventions that reduce readmissions and save money, including the use of nurses to follow up with patients in the weeks after hospital discharge, said Rachel Burton, report author and research associate at the Urban Institute in Washington.

“The only missing piece at this point is identifying the optimal payment approach to use to incentivize providers to engage in these activities,” she said.

Affordable Care Act reforms, which take effect Oct. 1, are designed to help. They include higher payments for meeting quality targets and penalties for high hospital readmission rates.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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