St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Blythe Bernhard followed up on suggestions offered in Charles Ornstein’s recent AHCJ article about updated CMS data to produce an article about looming potential cuts in Medicare payments to St. Louis’ Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
The hospital’s problem? As Bernhard writes, Barnes-Jewish “is one of just three hospitals in the country to perform significantly worse than the national average in readmissions within 30 days for three conditions — heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia — for each of the last three years.”
Medicare … plans to penalize hospitals with higher-than-expected readmission rates. Under health care reform, Barnes-Jewish and other hospitals could face up to a 3 percent reduction in Medicare payments, meaning millions of dollars, starting next year.
Reducing readmissions nationwide could save $26 billion over a decade, the government estimates.
The release this month of federal data on hospital quality is a good reminder for reporters to give their local hospitals a checkup.
Now that CMS has been reporting information on mortality and readmissions for several years, it’s possible to use the data to identify hospitals that repeatedly excel and those that have ongoing problems. While some journalists may have a been-there-done-that reaction to yet another round of data, the latest release has important information for your readers, viewers and listeners. After several years, a surprising number of hospitals can’t seem to improve — and an elite group has been able to maintain its excellence.
AHCJ not only offers the data in easy-to-analyze formats; we also offer tip sheets on using spreadsheets to analyze health data. To give you a head start, Charles Ornstein, senior reporter at ProPublica and AHCJ’s president, has done some preliminary analysis and points out states in which hospitals fared well and the states where hospitals did poorly. He also identifies the best and worst in the country based on mortality rates for patients suffering heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia.