To some HM13 attendees, the keynote speakers might have seemed to be talking about different things.
Patrick Conway, MD, MSc, FAAP, SFHM, chief medical officer and director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), hinted at promising results from the first accountable-care organizations (ACOs) and noted a meaningful reduction in 30-day readmission rates for the first time in years.
David Feinberg, MD, MBA, president of UCLA Health System in Los Angeles, told hospitalists that unless they’re getting patient care right every time, they’re not getting it right enough. And nothing would make him happier than seeing fewer hospitalists at SHM’s annual meeting—because that would mean fewer hospitalized patients.
HM pioneer Bob Wachter, MD, MHM, said it’s time for hospitalists to link their quality-improvement (QI) efforts and safety acumen to projects focused on cutting costs and reducing waste in the health-care system.
So while each made their points in a different way, each plenary speaker left many meeting-goers with a similar thought: Hospitalists are positioned at the nexus of big-picture reform and day-to-day implementation. So if hospitalists as a specialty continue to embrace teamwork, evidence-based practice, quality, safety, and a sense that the patient comes first, they will cement themselves as leaders in the next iteration of health-care delivery.
“There is enormous change going on in the healthcare system,” says SHM CEO Larry Wellikson. “And we are right in the middle of this. We are essential. If we are bad, we are going to sink it. And if we’re great, we are going to take it to another level.”
Dr. Conway said some of that progress already is evident. He disclosed that initial findings from the first data sets coming from the first ACOs are showing promising results, though he can’t go into detail until the information is publicly released. However, he did boast that after decades of Medicare readmission rates hovering around 19%, data from late 2012 and early 2013 show that figure has dropped to below 18%.
“That is a 1.5% to 2% shift in readmissions nationally,” he said. “It is a credit to the work you and others are doing in the field. That’s hundreds of thousands of Medicare beneficiaries that are not readmitted every year, that stay home healthy. … It’s a tremendous example of moving a national needle.”
He dismissed those who attribute the initial readmission progress solely to penalties instituted on readmissions, though he acknowledged that CMS is using both carrots and sticks to push change.
“It’s a combination of interventions,” he said.
And all of those initiatives must be aimed jointly at improving the patient experience, said Dr. Feinberg, a child psychiatrist by training whose mantra is “patient-centeredness.” Dr. Feinberg’s reputation is that of a physician-administrator who puts patients first. For example, even though his health system (www.uclahealth.org) is in the 99th percentile for patient satisfaction, he is unhappy. That’s because the top ranking means roughly 85 out of every 100 patients served are pretty happy with their experience.