The study found that targeted improvements facilitate care transitions and improve coordination as patients moved from one care setting to another. As a result, QIOs helped prevent about 6,800 hospitalizations and 1,800 readmissions per year. Advocates said that return visits are avoidable, yet cost the federal government billions of dollars each year, while funding the work of QIOs costs less than a dollar a month per Medicare beneficiary.
"While this CMS-funded work focuses on the quality of care provided to our nation's seniors, the program's learnings and successes to-date improve the care provided to Americans of all ages," said Adrienne Mims, MD, MPH, president of AHQA and medical director of Atlanta-based Alliant GMCF, the QIO for Georgia.
"Anyone who has ever been or will be a patient benefits, but we need to maintain the existing local infrastructure if we're to ensure the program continues to meet patients' unique needs, which can vary considerably from state to state. There's no evidence to show that a regional model will achieve better or even equivalent outcomes for patients."
AARP has also warned CMS against significant changes to the QIO program without first evaluating the proposed new approaches through pilot or demonstration programs to ensure there are no negative, unintended consequences.