Top Boston Hospital Tackles Readmission Problem05:46

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Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a highly regarded teaching hospital in Boston, but in 2012, the hospital found out it had one of the highest rates of readmission among Medicare patients in the country.

That meant federal fines of more than $1 million—and a lot of soul-searching for the staff, says Dr. Julius Yang, the head of quality for the hospital.

“Patients coming to our hospital, getting what we believed was high quality care, were coming back at an alarmingly high rate,” says Yang.

The hospital was providing quality care to patients when they were in the hospital, but it turned out that focus was too narrow, says Yang.

“In the hospital we provide a lot of structure, we provide a lot of staff. We provide a lot of expertise to manage every moment of their illness,” he says, “but as soon as they leave, the complexity of their situation probably explodes.”

Lila Gross, 84, is one of those complex patients, suffering from heart, lung and kidney problems. Gross frequently ended up in the hospital, and her daughter Geri Segel says the family always left with unanswered questions.

“She would check out of the hospital and there was no one who followed through,” says Segel. “We had a hundred questions and we had to wait for the next catastrophe to get her back in the hospital to find more answers.”

Now Lila Gross is one of 2,000 Medicare patients who is treated in Beth Israel Deaconess’ Post-Acute Care Transitions, or PACT program, designed to keep Medicare patients from bouncing in and out of the hospital. Studies show that about 30 percent of elderly patients return to the hospital within 30 days of being discharged.

From NPR and Here & Now -- in collaboration with Kaiser Health News -- Rachel Gotbaum reports.


  • Rachel Gotbaum, reporter and producer for WBUR.

This segment aired on March 28, 2014.