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IRMC center's goals to improve transition to outpatient care, reduce hospital readmissions

| Friday, Oct. 18, 2013, 2:15 p.m.
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Indiana Regional Medical Center's Primary Care Resource Center includes a conference room that is used for patient education. Gathered in the room are center staff members, from left: (seated) registered nurses and care coordinators Beth Small and Donna Hoare Scanlon, with Laura Muchesko, Doctor of Pharmacy; (standing) Leanne Coleman, administrative assistant, and Barbara Detwiler, registered nurse and care coordinator.

Indiana Regional Medical Center is unveiling an initiative to help patients discharged from the hospital avoid being readmitted by offering education to patients, families and personal care physicians.

IRMC will debut its new Primary Care Resource Center (PCRC) with a grand opening event from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday. The center is located in the Indiana Regional Medical Center Overlook Building at 879 Hospital Road in Indiana.

The PCRC will serve as an extension of primary care practices, improving the transitions of care from the hospital to outpatient care for target patient populations at risk for high readmissions: patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure and acute myocardial infarctions — or heart attacks.

The center is one of six being funded by a three-year Health Care Innovations Award through a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation cooperative agreement, administered through the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative.

The Health Initiative estimates an approximate $41 million savings to Medicare over the three years of the grant at the six regional centers.

Decreasing readmission rates will help improve patients' quality of life but is also important to health systems in light of new legislation from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Readmissions are a focus of theirs, because they feel there are many readmissions that are avoidable,” said PCRC spokesperson Donna Hoare Scanlon. “They began last fall penalizing hospitals with high readmission rates, so obviously it's in our best interest to make sure we're doing everything we can to keep our readmission rates down, as is every hospital across the nation.”

“Our main goal is to improve (patients') quality of life,” Scanlon added. “We definitely want to decrease readmissions, but to do that you need to improve quality of life.”

A major component of the initiative focuses on improved education prior to patients' discharge from the hospital.

“It's going to improve education of patients because part of what the grant requires us to do as the primary care nurses and pharmacists is to provide 30 minutes of education while they're a patient here,” Scanlon said. “We're really focused on education. We're focused on inhaler training for our patients with COPD because we know they've been on them sometimes for years, but they may not be using them correctly, and medication compliance is a big issue with readmissions.”

The PCRC will also help patients coordinate visits with their primary care physicians after they've been discharged.

“A big part of it, too, is communication between the hospital and the primary care doctors,” Scanlon said. “Sometimes that's where the gap is, and there's also a gap many times when the patient gets home and they're not seeing their doctors within seven days. That will also be a focus we have, to get them in to see their doctors within that one-week period post-discharge.”

Patients have been using the PCRC since Sept. 30, Scanlon said, but the open house will offer primary care physicians and members of the public a chance to check out the facility and learn more about its mission.

“The person I met with today, his wife said, ‘This is a wonderful program,' because their goal is to keep him out of the hospital and they see this as a way to accomplish that,” Scanlon said. “I think, once the public realizes there's another resource for the patients with those three primary diagnoses (COPD, heart failure and heart attack), it will be of great interest to them because most people don't want to come to the hospital — and once they're in here, they most certainly don't want to come right back.”

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or greinbold@tribweb.com.

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