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Western Pennsylvania hospitals lag state improvement

| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013,

Patient readmission rates dropped among Pennsylvania's acute care general hospitals in seven of 13 reportable conditions, according to a report released on Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Cost Containment Council, a Harrisburg-based state agency.

Hospitals reported readmission drops among patients with conditions such as congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which in the past experts have linked to readmissions.

Several hospitals in Western Pennsylvania, however, reported significantly higher than expected readmission rates in some illnesses, according to the report, which looked at adult inpatient discharges for 2012.

UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland, for instance, reported higher than expected readmission rates for patients with kidney and urinary tract infections.

“We applaud all transparency efforts in health care, and continue to focus on reducing hospital readmissions as a top priority,” said Tami Minnier, UPMC's chief quality officer.

Allegheny General Hospital in the North Side reported higher than expected readmission rates among patients with congestive heart failure and infectious pneumonia.

“Readmissions ... are reviewed routinely and exhaustively by all of our hospitals to assess opportunities for reducing them,” said Dan Laurent, spokesman for AGH parent Allegheny Health Network. “We are focused on exploring any and all opportunities to enhance the patient experience, improve quality and reduce the costs of care. Minimizing readmissions is a key component of this strategy.”

The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council collects discharge data submitted by hospitals. It defines a readmission as a hospitalization that follows a previous hospitalization within 30 days. In determining higher than expected rates, the agency considers the type of patients and their conditions. Overall, the largest drop in readmissions was reported among patients with congestive heart failure, to 24.5 percent in 2012 from 26.9 percent in 2007.

“Lowering readmissions has been a major emphasis of both national reform efforts and for Pennsylvania hospitals, physicians and nurses,” said Joe Martin, the council's executive director.

The report showed a statewide decrease in mortality rates in nine conditions from 2007 through 2012. The sharpest decline was for septicemia, a bacterial infection in the blood. Septicemia accounted for the largest increase — 61 percent — in hospital admissions, to 39,832 in 2012 from 24,642 in 2007. In Western Pennsylvania, hospitals reported significantly higher mortality rates than the rest of the state among patients with chest pain, kidney and urinary tract infections, infectious pneumonia, septicemia and stroke.

“PHC4's latest hospital performance report documents the continuing progress hospitals are making toward reducing mortality rates and readmissions,” said Andy Carter, president and CEO of the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.

Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7998 or lfabregas@tribweb.com.

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