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Tough slog against heart-failure readmissions

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Despite a push by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, private insurers and hospitals themselves against readmissions of people with heart failure, research indicates  that few have achieved  much of a reduction.

Research also shows that safety-net hospitals and others with largely low-income patient populations are at particular risk for heart-failure readmissions; patients from lower-income neighborhoods were nearly 17 percent more likely to be readmitted within six months of discharge.

Yet again, we’re seeing here the social determinants of health in a country with all too few community resources  (compared to other developed nations’) to help low-income people maintain health.

Still, there’s hope in  2013 study that found that six strategies implemented together, rather than individually, could reduce heart-failure readmissions by about 2 percent and save $100 million a year.

The six strategies in the study are:

1. More partnerships between local hospitals.

2. Giving nurses responsibility for medication reconciliation.

3. Arranging for physicians’ follow-up visits to patients before discharge.

4. More hospital partnerships with community doctors and physician groups.

5. Assigning hospital staffers to follow up on post-discharge test results.

6. Setting up a process to send all discharge papers and electronic summaries directly to patients’ primary-care physicians.

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