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Readmissions Targeted by IL Blues, Hospitals

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, February 2, 2011

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois and the Illinois Hospital Association have launched a four-year joint initiative to reduce some of the nation's highest hospital readmission rates, the two organizations announced Tuesday.

"This collaboration leverages IHA's experience and relationships with hospitals, the expertise of the academic community and resources from BCBSIL," said Scott Sarran, MD, BCBSIL vice president/CMO. "We expect this collaboration to have a positive impact on improving the way hospitals, physicians, and other healthcare providers transition patients to outpatient care in the community."

The Commonwealth Fund State Scorecard 2009 ranked Illinois 44th in the nation for its high rate of Medicare 30-day readmissions as a percentage of admissions. The state had a readmissions rate of 20.3%, an increase from 19.6% in 2007. Nationally, the median is 17.5% and the average for the top five states is 13.8%.

In 2009, there were more than 50,000 readmissions to Illinois hospitals, with each patient spending, on average, five additional days in the hospital. Sarran said improving the Illinois readmission rate to the current national average has the potential to save or avoid costs of approximately $150 million dollars in the first year.

BCBSIL expects to invest up to $1 million a year over the next four years to reduce preventable hospital readmissions. "Our commitment to this program is part of our ongoing efforts to work with health care providers to improve the quality of care and slow increasing health care costs," Sarran said.

More than 200 Illinois hospitals have pledged to reduce readmissions by the end of 2013 with the goal of raising the state's performance from the bottom quartile to an upper quartile, IHA President Maryjane A. Wurth said.

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