Unnecessary hospitalizations and readmissions represent two of the most significant drains on the health care sector. Hospitals and other care providers strain to meet their patients’ needs with limited resources.The goals for virtually any care provider must include not only improving patient outcomes, but also cutting down on per capita health costs and the health of populations as a whole.

In light of this state of affairs, many hospitals are looking to leverage health IT to a greater degree, as Fierce Health IT contributor Katie Dvorak recently reported. Such efforts have the potential to not only improve hospital performance, but also allow care providers to better participate in and comply with the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program (DSRIP). DSRIP programs, established in New York State and elsewhere, are a key part of efforts to reform the way Medicaid is delivered. These DSRIP programs are being used as leverage to encourage hospitals and other care providers to institute wide-ranging payment and delivery system reforms. Meeting these requirements is a major priority, and Health IT will inevitably prove essential in this area.

Health IT’s impact
Dvorak highlighted several examples of care providers turning to health IT as a means of reducing preventable admissions and readmissions. In one case, the Cleveland Clinic has seen positive results by focusing its efforts on improving communication among health care professionals responsible for treating patients who are being discharged. These teams of doctors have access to a “discharge readiness tool,” which is embedded in the patient’s electronic health record. This tool enables these doctors to engage in a “virtual huddle” to discuss the patient’s needs.

“We know that huddling is a really important communications tool that drives a lot of good metrics in terms of discharging – whether it’s length of stay or readmissions,” said Nirav Vakharia, Associate Chief Quality Officer at Cleveland Clinic’s Quality and Patient Safety Institute, the source reported.

The Cleveland Clinic goes on to utilize a variety of telemedicine IT tools following patient discharge, the source explained. This allows the care provider to continue to deliver treatment to patients at home, addressing health issues before they require readmission. Such efforts are further aided through the use of analytics, which can identify the most at-risk patients.

Analytics can have a major impact on readmission reduction efforts.
Analytics can have a major impact on readmission reduction efforts.

Ultimately, Vakharia emphasized that unnecessary readmissions are primarily the result of fragmented patient care. By utilizing Health IT, care providers can deliver a more unified approach to patient treatment.

Praveen Chopra, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Philadelphia-based Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, also highlighted the importance of analytics in this area. He told Dvorak that his organization recognized a number of patterns regarding patients’ socioeconomic information and readmission rates. By taking this data into account, the care provider is now able to develop risk scores for patients, which can influence discharge and treatment decisions.

“DSRIP aims to reduce avoidable hospital use by 25% over the next five years.”

Health IT and DSRIP
​Progress in this area is particularly noteworthy in light of the growing importance of DSRIP and related programs and mandates. The DSRIP program features a number of goals regarding improved health care outcomes, and in particular aims to reduce avoidable hospital use by 25 percent over the next five years, according to the New York State Department of Health.

As Crain’s New York has reported, care providers in New York are adopting a variety of tactics to achieve this goal. This includes partnering with social-service nonprofits to encourage healthier behavior in high-risk communities.

As effective as such approaches may be, health care providers will undoubtedly need to partner such efforts with Health IT initiatives that combine data-driven analytics with telemedicine and a variety of other technology tools.

In order to effectively leverage all of these resources in a single, unified strategy, hospitals and other health care providers will need to ensure they have both human resources and technical expertise available to implement their carefully considered tactics.

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