Hospitals operate on small to sometimes negative profit margins. Federal programs offer money to help offset cost, but as part of the affordable healthcare act, Medicare can now penalize hospitals if patients are readmitted within 30 days. Fines can be up to one percent of the Medicare program which translates to millions of dollars gone from healthcare providers.
Barbara Folger Assistant Vice President of Quality and Outcomes Management at Faxton St. Luke's Healthcare says, "It's a considerable amount of money, its maybe not having the right equipment or the right people to take care of the patient the first time around. So, it definitely is something that as you can see we worked on for the last couple of years and we are seeing our rates go down, but it will still have a definite impact on what we're able to do for the patients."
Faxton St. Luke's Healthcare, like many hospitals now hire readmissions team to make sure the patient received the best care in and out of the hospital.
Folger added, "Their charged basically with looking at ways we can improve the discharge process. And look at patients that are at high risk for readmission to the hospital. And again that's some of those complicated diagnosis like congestive heart failure."
Currently 11 percent of Faxton St. Luke's Healthcare patients are readmitted. Even more will seek care from other providers; in any case the original provider is still penalized. Some experts say reducing readmissions is like walking a medical tight rope between patient and provider.
"It's a balancing act for the patients as well as the healthcare providers because certainly you're dealing with human bodies, they sometimes don't get well when you think you've done the right thing and when you've done the right thing. They can still get sicker and they can still have problems" says Folger.