I am responding to comments about The Bellingham Herald article on Medicare and a new program at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, which assists seniors in making safe transitions out of the hospital. The writer asserted that these programs are entirely the result of a new program in the Affordable Care Act that penalizes hospitals when individuals are readmitted to the facility within 30 days.
Alhough the Affordable Care Act sets penalties for excess readmissions, these penalties do not relate to individual patients. They are levied on hospitals with admission rates that are above the national average. At PeaceHealth here in Bellingham there were no penalties this year because readmission rates have been relatively low for many years. It is important to understand that these coaching programs pre-date the Affordable Care Act, and are geared towards improving patient care.
Often readmissions are caused by poor care coordination. At times the patient will experience a medication problem due to having multiple physicians who are not in communication with each other. Another common issue is for patients to fail to check back in with their primary care provider soon after discharge. The Project Impact coaching program aims to resolve these kinds of problems by helping patients and their family's direct their own care.