State works to reduce preventable hospitalizations

Top Maryland officials highlighted a change in the way hospitals are charging patients for treatment – and a related push to prevent unnecessary admissions -- during a stop Wednesday in Western Maryland.

Maryland has long regulated hospital rates under a unique agreement with federal officials, but has altered its waiver in a way that provides hospitals with a budget based on their projected patient population rather than a fee for every service performed.

The idea is to cut costs and improve care by encouraging more preventive measures.

On the tour of the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center, Gov. Martin O'Malley, hospital officials and state health officials highlighted efforts to address preventable hospitalizations.

Under a trial of sorts with this and other hospitals that began four years ago, the state was able to reduce such hospitalizations by 11.5 percent per 100,000 Marylanders, the officials said. Other efforts are underway statewide to reduce emergency visits and admissions.

“We’re using innovative strategies to solve important problems,” O’Malley said in a statement. “By focusing on common platforms, and by moving away from ‘fee-for-service,’ we are reducing preventable hospitalizations, controlling healthcare costs, and keeping Marylanders healthier.”

The Western Maryland hospital has reduced such admissions by coordinating care for patients with chronic health problems such as diabetes, heart failure and COPD in a clinic setting. The center reported about $1.4 million in savings.

“What’s happening in Western Maryland is at the cutting edge of healthcare in our nation,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, state health secretary, in a statement. “By shifting off of fee-for-service hospital reimbursement, the health system is achieving greater results and controlling costs.”


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