Conference Coverage

Collaborative effort reduces COPD readmissions, costs



Medicare exacts a penalty whenever it deems that hospitals have too many patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who have been re-admitted within 30 days of discharge for care related to the disease. For acute-care hospitals the solution to reducing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) re-admissions has been elusive, but members of a COPD chronic care management collaborative think they have found at least a partial solution.

Among 33 centers participating in the performance improvement program, the aggregated cost avoidance for emergency department (ED) visits was estimated at $351,000, and the savings for hospital re-visits avoided was an estimated $2.6 million, reported Valerie Press, MD, MPH, from the University of Chicago, and co-authors from the health care performance-improvement company Vizient.

The investigators described their chronic care management collaborative in a thematic poster presented during the American Thoracic Society’s virtual international conference (Abstract A1688).

“I’ve been working in the space of COPD re-admissions pretty much since Medicare started its penalty program,” Dr. Press said in an interview.

“At both my own institution and nationally, we’ve been trying to understand the policy that went into place to reduce what was considered to be excessive readmissions after a COPD admission, but there really wasn’t a lot of evidence to suggest how to do this at the time the policy went into place,” she said.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) initiated its Hospital Readmission Reduction Program for COPD in 2014.

“The challenge with COPD is that we have not found really successful interventions to decrease readmissions,” commented Laura C. Myers, MD, MPH, in an interview. Dr. Myers, who studies optimal care delivery models for patients with COPD at Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, was not involved in the study.

She said that although the aggregate cost savings in the study by Dr. Press and colleagues are relatively modest, “if you extrapolate across the country, then those numbers could potentially be impressive.”

Collaboration details

Dr. Press was a subject matter expert for the collaborative, which included 47 Vizient member sites in the Southeast, Southwest, Midwest, and Northeast and Northwest coasts. Of these centers, 33 completed both parts of the collaboration.

The program included bi-monthly didactic sessions and site report and discussion sessions with peer-to-peer networking for a total of 6 months. During the sessions, meeting participants discussed best practices, received expert coaching, and provided progress updates on performance improvement projects.

“The goal was for them to identify the gaps or needs they had at their hospitals or practices, and then to try to put in place one or more interventions,” Dr. Press said. “This wasn’t a research program. It wasn’t standardized, and not all hospitals had to do the same program.”

The participants submitted reports for baseline and post-collaboration periods on both an intervention’s “reach,” defined as the percentage of patients who received a specified intervention, and on two outcome measures.

The interventions measured included spirometry, follow-up visits scheduled within 7 to 14 days of discharge, patients receiving COPD education, pulmonary referrals, and adherence to the COPD clinical pathway.

The outcome measures were the rate of COPD-related ED visits and hospital readmissions.


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