When Harbor UCLA Medical Center, a teaching hospital in Torrance, Calif., and a major safety-net facility for Los Angeles County, looked at its 30-day readmissions data, it found that readmissions for heart failure patients had increased by about 25% in just one year.
“We parsed the data and said we’re going have to sort this out,” explains Charles McKay, MD, a cardiologist at the hospital. “Then the opportunity to join Project BOOST came along. It’s been helpful to have their tools, mentors, and the whole collaborative experience.”
Harbor UCLA is one of seven Southern California hospitals participating in the yearlong Readmissions Reduction Collaborative, co-sponsored by SHM and the Hospital Association of Southern California (HASC). The hospitals convened in early June in Montebello, Calif., to report results from their quality initiatives. Four of the hospitals reported reductions in readmissions ranging from 24% to 55%. The other three were slower in implementing their quality processes and are just now starting to see results, executives said.
Project BOOST is a national quality initiative created by SHM to improve hospital discharges and care transitions while reducing readmissions—a growing focus for hospitals and health policy makers. About 100 participating sites across the country have benefited from BOOST’s expert mentoring and collaboration, as well as access to such tools as the “teachback” communication techniques and the “8Ps” comprehensive patient risk assessment.
Harbor UCLA’s multidisciplinary readmissions team, with Dr. McKay as its physician champion, zeroed in on heart failure and developed a Cardiovascular Open Access Rapid Evaluation (CORE) service, which he describes as a sort of observation or clinical decisions unit aimed at relieving pressure on the ED. Open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., the CORE service coordinates medical interventions—stress tests and trips to the cardiac catheter lab, for example—for patients who have not been admitted to the hospital.
The team also focuses on discharged patients who return to the hospital within 72 hours, before the hospital could place post-discharge follow-up phone calls. Many of these patients could not be reached after they left the hospital.
“These are the patients where the system has failed,” Dr. McKay says. “But you could flip it over and say they are our biggest opportunity. That’s where BOOST comes in, to talk about interventions during hospitalization, implementing teachback, streamlining the coordination of care.”
BOOST aims to accelerate the quality-improvement (QI) process, identifying readmission risks and making them a higher priority for nurses and doctors to mobilize resources in the discharge process. “That’s where BOOST shone at our institution,” Dr. McKay says, “and where we still have a lot to learn.”
Harbor UCLA also brought a home healthcare representative onto the team, engaged a discharge advocate, and referred appropriate patients to a heart failure disease management registry. Over the year of the collaborative, it posted a 5.5% decrease in readmissions of heart failure patients.
Hospitalists do not have prominent roles at most HASC readmissions sites; traditional hospitalist services are less common in Southern California hospitals, in part due to the prevalence of independent practice associations (IPAs), which act as intermediaries between physicians and health plans in the region, explains Z. Joseph Wanski, MD, FACE, medical director of the public L.A. Care Health Plan, which co-sponsored the readmissions collaborative. “The IPA is in charge of its members’ hospital and post-hospital care,” he says.
Dr. Wanski, a practicing endocrinologist and a hospitalist at California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles, says L.A. Care is now testing the use of hospitalists at some of its contracted acute-care facilities.