17 June 2010

Seniors Falling Victim to Drive-By Health Care!


I've learned that a study slated to come out shortly in the Journal of the American Medical Association will report that the practice of discharging heart patients after short stays does not save on hospital expenses and makes it more likely that shortly those patients will return to the hospital for additional care.

One result of health care reform is that hospitals are facing closer scrutiny for their "cost-containment" practices and high infection rates.  A recent study by a Yale University cardiologist has found that shorter stays for heart patients, while not even cost effective, do create the likelihood of need for additional care within only one month of the initial release of those patients making the enti5re process very expensive.

The data from the study found that while the length of hospital stays for heart failure patients declined by 26 percent, the readmission rate increased from 17.3 percent to 20 percent, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.  Obviously, the readmissions cause a greater increase in costs than if the patient had remained in hospital care until fully ready for release.  Another case of penny wise and pound foolish, and since Medicare is picking up most of the added costs we find ourselves with an opportunity to answer its critics with a meaningful way to reduce Medicare expenses.  Cut expense and see to it that seniors are properly cared for--now there's a concept!

Early discharges and the resultant complications are not the only thing scaring seniors about hospital stays.  A recent Consumer Reports study of intensive care units at 926 hospitals across America found that  some hospitals have startlingly high infection rates.  The report suggests that the problem is highest at major "teaching" hospitals.  One of those, New York University's Langone Medical Center, reported 39 infections in 10,119 central line processes in 2008.  This is double the national average.

The article said, "Our study focused on one of the most dreaded types of the approximately 1.7 million infections that occur each year in U.S. hospitals. They are bloodstream infections introduced through the large intravenous catheters that deliver medication, nutrition, and fluids to patients in intensive care. These so-called central-line infections account for 15 percent of all hospital infections but are responsible for at least 30 percent of the 99,000 annual hospital-infection-related deaths, according to the best estimates available.

Even for those who survive, a central-line infection means weeks or months of debilitating treatments and side effects".

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