For people who are injured or ill, perhaps the only thing more troubling than the initial affliction is the thought of being harmed in the course of receiving medical care. Unfortunately, errors such as misdiagnosis, surgical mistakes and hospital infections are a real risk that affects many people across the country.
Encouragingly for people in Peoria County and other parts of Illinois, the rate of certain preventable hospital injuries decreased in 2012. However, the rate of readmission remained fairly stable, which shows that there are still areas in which Illinois hospitals could improve their quality of care.
Results of Illinois Hospital Association report
In November 2013, the Illinois Hospital Association published a report on the performance of over 200 hospitals and other health systems in the state, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Compared to the year before, some positive gains were made: 843 fewer harmful incidents occurred, and the number of incidents involving fall injuries, hospital-acquired infections or pressure ulcers decreased.
Unfortunately, other categories of injuries did not see the same declines, and the rate of preventable readmissions remained stable from 2011 to 2012. About 14 percent of patients – or nearly 1 in 7 people – had to be readmitted to hospitals because of developments that could have been prevented.
This readmission rate clearly provides cause for concern, since it adds to cost of care for patients and can also leave patients vulnerable to suffer further complications or go without needed care. Fortunately, hospitals now have greater incentive to improve their readmission records.
Hospital incentives to reduce readmissions
The issue of hospital readmissions is so widespread that a government initiative to penalize hospitals was authorized in 2010, according to a Kaiser Health News article. Hospitals with high readmission rates can now lose funding from Medicare. The article reports the following figures:
- Nearly 20 percent of Medicare patients are readmitted to hospitals within a month of being sent home.
- This rate has not changed in several years despite efforts to lower it.
- Altogether, almost 2 million Medicare patients are readmitted annually.
- Illinois was labeled as one of the eight states that would be penalized most heavily because of readmission rates.
Sanctions from the government may give hospitals more incentive to work toward integrated care that helps patients recover fully after being discharged. As the Kaiser Health News article points out, hospitals previously lacked any financial motivation to ensure that patients stayed healthy and did not return shortly after receiving care.
Of course, even if Illinois hospitals are lowering the rate of certain hospital injuries and working on reducing readmissions, this does not mean that preventable injuries in these categories and others have ceased completely. Sadly, many people are still affected by hospital or caregiver errors, and the results can be devastating.
If you or a loved one has been harmed by substandard medical care, you should speak with an attorney who can advise you on your rights and means of recourse.