Groups work to reduce hospital readmissions

The Glendale Healthier Community Coalition brought together representatives from several nonprofit organizations this week for a workshop with the three local hospitals looking at ways to reduce patient readmissions.

Starting Oct. 1, Medicare began penalizing hospitals whose readmissions of patients with pneumonia, congestive heart failure and coronary disease were above a rate established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services using past information from each site and statistics from hospitals of similar sizes and demographics.

For fiscal year 2013, Glendale Memorial Hospital will lose up to 1% is its Medicare reimbursements — the highest penalty levied — and Glendale Adventist Medical Center will lose about 0.7%, according to information from the Medicare agency. Verdugo Hills Hospital will not lose any reimbursements.

Thomas Backer, president of Encino-based Valley Nonprofit Resources, told the coalition on Monday that nonprofits can play a pivotal role in reducing readmissions.

“It starts in the hospital, but it has to go out into the community if it’s to be successful,” said Backer, whose organization serves more than 4,000 nonprofit organizations in the San Fernando Valley, including Glendale and Burbank.

An important way to reduce readmissions is to let recently released patients and their caregivers know what local resources are available to them.

To that end, a website for the coalition is being developed, said Lisa Raggio — senior director of community services, development and communications at the YWCA of Glendale — who is heading up the website project.

A member directory on the site will provide each coalition organization with a Web page featuring its services and links to its own website.

The coalition website, which doesn’t have a name yet, should launch in the spring or early summer, said Shant Sahakian, president of Sedna Solutions, which is designing the site.

Users can fill out a questionnaire on the site where they can list their healthcare needs.

“That user, after inputting their information, can find out what resources would be best for them to utilize,” Raggio said.

Two vital resources that are “terribly underutilized” are the pools at the Glendale YWCA and YMCA, which need to undergo improvements to be accessible to people with mobility problems, said Bruce Nelson, director of community services at Glendale Adventist and co-chair of a task force established to look at reducing readmissions.

In other communities that have easily accessible pools, there are senior programs and wellness classes that would be ideal for discharged patients looking for exercise opportunities, Nelson said.

The two local nonprofits are working to change that situation.

At the YMCA’s hotel, a renovation is planned to install a couple of “lifters” that will lower seniors and people with mobility issues from the parking lot to the ground level of the building, where a pool that is kept at 91 degrees is available, said George Saikali, chief executive of the YMCA.

The pool will also be remodeled so there is no deep end, he added.

The project will cost about $260,000 — with $75,000 committed from the Rose Hills Foundation, Saikali said.

A lift chair will also be installed at the YWCA for improved access to the pool area, Raggio said, adding that a federal grant helped fund the project.

Nelson said the improvements are steps in the right direction.

“This is a classic case of the kinds of people … that we want to be effectively recovering from an illness or maintaining their health,” Nelson said. “[They] can benefit from a resource that is underutilized, and by working together collaboratively we can support bringing [these upgrades] into the community in a way that can make a really big difference.”


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