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Florida hospitals show quality improvements after five-year project

An industry-led effort to improve care at Florida hospitals has helped reduce surgical complications and readmissions at participating facilities, according to a report released Tuesday by the Florida Hospital Association.

The five-year effort began after Florida hospitals were the subject of national criticism because of poor health outcomes. Participants collaborated on best practices to prevent problems. For instance, a standard checklist for inserting central lines in intensive care patients resulted in a 75 percent decrease in associated infections at Orlando Regional Medical Center.

Officials credit the effort with improvements including:

• 15 percent reduction in hospital readmissions

• 14.5 percent reduction in surgical complications

• 41 percent reduction in bloodstream infections

• 37 percent reduction in urinary tract infections

"As we reach our five-year milestone, we can be proud that our efforts have led to significant results. Lives have been saved, care has improved and we've reduced the cost of care," said Bruce Rueben, association president.

About 200 hospitals were involved. Local participants include Tampa General, All Children's, Bayfront Health, Moffitt Cancer Center, Florida Hospital Zephyrhills, Memorial and Town & Country, as well as the hospitals of Baycare, the area's leading provider. Hospitals of the area's second-largest provider, HCA, did not participate.

The state report comes on the heels of data showing Medicare fines against hospitals that readmit patients too frequently.

FHA officials said Tuesday that their report uses a different methodology than the federal program.

The Medicare penalties, which began in October 2012, are among the toughest federal efforts to pay for quality rather than quantity of care. Florida is one of only 10 states where more than 80 percent of hospitals face fines due to the number of patients who need further hospitalization within a month of discharge, according to Kaiser Health News

Medicare penalizes hospitals by reducing payments by up to 2 percent. The penalties are based on readmissions of heart and pneumonia patients; hospitals that exceed predicted rates are fined.

Locally, Baycare's Morton Plant Hospital was the only one that owed no penalty. HCA's Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg, faces the largest fine, a 1.38 percent reduction in payments, according to Kaiser figures.

Northside spokeswoman Aimee Bennett said the hospital had been unable to verify those figures. "But I would like to say that Northside Hospital is committed to improving our readmission rates," said Bennett. "We have several programs in place to encourage our patients to stay healthy after discharge, including initiatives to help with patient education, assistance with scheduling follow-up appointments, and access to medications at discharge."

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374.

Florida hospitals show quality improvements after five-year project 08/13/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 5:55pm]
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