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How 2 Systems Cut Postacute Care Costs and Raised Quality

By Philip Betbeze  
   December 22, 2016

Health systems are creating preferred networks and monitoring provider services to cut length of stay, reduce readmissions, and improve outcomes.

Just a few years ago, most hospitals discharged their patients and didn’t check on them again unless they showed up in the ER or were readmitted. But now, as government and private payers alike seek to improve care coordination, post-discharge patient care can no longer be ignored.

Through accountable care organizations and clinically integrated networks, health systems have access to data that can help them identify variation among postacute providers. These health systems can also spark performance improvement among their postacute partners by having them compete against each other for discharge volume.

In a recent press call with healthcare performance improvement company Premier Inc., two early movers shared the tactics that helped them drive better outcomes and financial results.

Preferred Providers
St. Luke's University Health Network in Bethlehem, PA, began building a preferred postacute provider network in 2013, said Donna Sabol, RN, vice president and chief quality officer.

That year, leaders at the seven-hospital health system decided to fully participate in a voluntary Medicare bundling initiative that covered 84 procedures and the follow-up care associated with those procedures.

Developing a truly accountable postacute provider network was an urgent priority. “We saw it as a learning opportunity in preparation for mandatory bundles,” she said.

Nonacute Care: The New Frontier

To ensure early success, St. Luke’s evaluated its internal needs for staffing, technology, data analysis, care coordination and gainsharing with invited postacute care organizations, and invested in those capabilities.

Registered nurses and physical therapy providers from St. Luke's worked with postacute providers to develop care protocols. Using its EMR, the health system identified bundle patients upfront so the specialists coordinating their care could supervise patients’ care on admission to the hospital and follow them for 90-days post-discharge.

Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders.

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