The number of people hospitalized in the Lehigh Valley for potentially preventable illnesses has decreased by more than 1,000 cases in the last decade, likely due to improved management of chronic health problems, according to a state report released Thursday.
Statewide, the rate of people hospitalized for preventable conditions decreased 28 percent from the fiscal year 2008 to fiscal 2017, with 1 in 8 hospitalizations considered preventable. Despite improvements, the cost of those stays totaled $1.2 billion, the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council report noted.
Health experts have argued that keeping people healthy and catching diseases in early stages before patients need expensive treatments, will reduce skyrocketing costs.
The report can help health care professionals target areas with high rates of preventable hospitalizations and determine how to better detect conditions and provide more timely care.
Identifying areas within Pennsylvania with higher rates of potentially preventable hospitalizations highlights opportunities where early detection and timely care might lead to improved outcomes and decreased costs,” said
Insurers and government payers like Medicaid and Medicare as well as healthcare policy are pushing hospitals to reduce emergency visits and hospitalizations, said Matt McCambridge, Lehigh Valley Health Network’s chief quality, and patient safety officer.
LVHN healthcare workers keep in contact with patients to monitor their health, he said. Plus, standardizing care for various conditions and making sure patients are seen as soon as possible have improved outcomes.
“If we look at the next 10 years, it’ll continue to follow a downward trajectory,” McCambridge said.
While the rates have improved, the more than 170,000 Pennsylvanians who end up in hospitals for preventable illnesses indicate that hospitals have more work to do, said Carl Seitz, president of Lehigh Valley Business Coalition on Healthcare.
“The American health care system focuses on the treatment of illness, rather than management and prevention of illness, as illustrated by this report,” he said. “This approach results in much higher costs for both individuals and employers, and more importantly, poorer health.”
Heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease make up the majority of preventable hospitalizations across the state, and especially in the southeast region. Other preventive hospitalizations include diabetes, pneumonia, dehydration, urinary tract infection, hypertension, and asthma.
“People are living longer and to an age where the heart tends to fail or they develop COPD, that’s what the data show,” he said.
The majority of people staying at the hospital for preventable conditions are on Medicare, which is primarily for people 65 and older.
The variations of rates of preventable hospital stay across counties are likely due to differences in age, income, and race, health experts said.
Older, black and low-income residents fared the worse, the report showed.