New Jersey to Tackle Heart Failure Readmissions

Elyas Bakhtiari, June 18, 2010

Healthcare organizations in New Jersey announced this week a new statewide initiative aimed at reducing hospital readmissions related to heart failure through better care and closer provider collaboration.

More than 50 organizations—including hospitals, nursing homes, home health providers, and hospice organizations—will participate in the effort, which is being spearheaded by the New Jersey Hospital Association through its Institute for Quality and Patient Safety.

In addition to sharing data and best practices, each organization will send representatives to a series of learning sessions that will provide a better understanding of why patients are being readmitted to hospitals and what providers can do to reduce readmissions.

Each year over 1 million people are admitted to an inpatient setting for heart failure nationwide, and 27% of those patients who are on Medicare are readmitted within 30 days, according to a recent report. In fact, heart failure is one the most frequent reasons for rehospitalization, which costs Medicare up to $17.4 billion annually.

"Hospital readmissions are a very complex issue, with many factors beyond the control of healthcare providers. Some readmissions are simply unavoidable. But we all know there is always more to be done to make our healthcare system more efficient," said NJHA President and CEO Betsy Ryan in a release.

The New Jersey effort follows similar initiatives focused on heart failure readmissions launched this year in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Last year, the American College of Cardiology launched an effort to cut the national Medicare heart failure readmission rate by 20% by the end of 2012.

One of the goals of the New Jersey program will be to involve patients as well as providers. The organizations hope to develop resources to help hospitals and post-acute facilities improve heart failure care, as well as resources to help patients better manage their own care at home.

Improving the frequency and quality of follow-up care may be one key to making the initiative successful. A study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that early outpatient follow-up after an initial hospitalization reduces the risk of readmission within 30 days.

Although the New Jersey initiative is only planned for one year, the organizations plan on using the best practices and information developed for heart failure readmissions to reduce readmissions for other patient populations, such as diabetics and patients with pneumonia.

Elyas Bakhtiari Elyas Bakhtiari is a freelance editor for HealthLeaders Media.
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