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Progress on Care Transitions?

February 9, 2012
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Healthcare Reform and Better Care Transitions

Will 2012 be a year in which significant progress will be made on care management transitions? There is reason to believe that some headway will be made on this persistent problem.

One big reason for optimism is that healthcare reform has presented a business case for it. At a conference hosted by Kaiser Permanente last October, Farzad Mostashari, M.D., national coordinator for health IT, urged participants to embrace health IT as a way of improving care transitions, as fee-for-service models are replaced by new models of payment.

While researching an article on care transitions recently, some experts noted that there is at least a heightened awareness about the topic. One is Erica Drazen, managing director of CSC's Global Institute for Emerging Healthcare Practices, who said the HITECH Act has gotten people moving forward. “Everybody is thinking about this, and the amount of uptake has been significant,” she says. A big piece in the puzzle is electronic health records, making better information exchange possible between various caregivers, as well As the standards and protocols for exchanging information.

That’s the good news, although there is still an enormous amount of work to do. Drazen also notes that more than 90 percent of hospitals chose to defer the requirement for better care transitions as part of their Stage 1 meaningful use attestation. She also says that between a quarter to a third of patients who are readmitted to hospitals within 30 days have not been back to see their primary care physicians. “We are doing a really poor job in follow-up,” she says. She also notes that studies have shown that contacting patients after discharge and making sure they are on the right medications will help.

In her view, the time has come to make care transitions a front-burner issue. She sees compelling reasons for moving forward: “This is going to change if we are doing accountable care or if we are going to prevent readmissions, so it is in people’s future,” she says.
More on care transitions will appear in the march issue, as part of our annual coverage of Top Tech Trends.