Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 2, 2012

Avoiding hospital stay priceless


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---- — Unlike dozens of other Michigan hospitals, Munson Medical Center will not face federal fines because too many heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia patients need to be readmitted within 30 days.

That's good news for Munson but much better news for future patients who, according to the feds anyway, are less likely than patients elsewhere to face readmission after being hospitalized because of a life-threatening condition.

Munson's readmission rates are better or no different than national rates for heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia patients, but the same can't be said for dozens of hospitals in Michigan.

Individual fines could reach into the millions of dollars.

It's all due to a provision in the Affordable Care Act that kicks in Oct. 1. The federal government's Medicare program spends billions of dollars a year on care in readmission cases, and the aim is to reduce that amount.

Jennifer Standfest, Munson's director of nursing practice and professional development, said the hospital has been focusing on patient readmissions through education, checking on prescriptions, making sure patients schedule an appointment with their primary care provider and other efforts.

The money is important. But for patients, not having to face more hospitalization, more tests and more procedures after surviving a frightening and dangerous ailment or procedure is priceless.