A congressional advisory board report released Friday, October 5th, found that many emergency room visits by seniors could be avoided. The study, reported by Kaiser Health News, found that nearly 60 percent of Medicare beneficiary visits to emergency rooms, and 25 percent of their hospital admissions, were “potentially preventable,” had patients received better care at home or in outpatient settings.
Hospitals spent $30.8 billion on 4.4 million hospital admissions in 2006 that might have been avoidable, according to a report by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Data like this is why researchers have been looking at reducing preventable ER visits and hospital admissions for years. This study is one of the first large analyses of Medicare patients. The study analyzed health services provided to 5 percent of all traditional Medicare program beneficiaries from 2006 to 2008.
“These are spectacular rates,” said Scott Armstrong, a member of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and CEO of Group Health Cooperative, a Seattle-based health plan.
The potentially preventable admissions or ER visits do not indicate the hospital acted inappropriately. Instead, they are a measure of a community’s outpatient care system that includes private physician offices, community health centers and urgent care centers, study co-author Nancy Ray, a MedPAC principal policy analyst, told the congressional advisory board. Ray said not every preventable ER visit or admission can be avoided. The study showed wide variation of these rates across the country and within cities.
Patients could avoid preventable ER visits by having health conditions treated by family doctors or urgent care centers or by making sure to take all their medicine. Hospital admissions could be prevented if conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart failure were better monitored by patients and their doctors, commission staff said.