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New PHC4 report shows declining rate of potentially preventable hospitalizations in Pennsylvania

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Approximately one of every eight adult inpatient stays in Pennsylvania general acute care hospitals in 2010 were potentially preventable, but the rate of such hospitalizations has declined over the past decade, according to a new study released by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4).  The PHC4 report examined 12 conditions and found that during the previous decade, the rate of potentially preventable hospitalizations in the state dropped from 231 per 10,000 residents in 2001 to 186.9 per 10,000 residents in 2010. For chronic conditions, the rate fell from 148.1 to 118.5 per 10,000 residents, and for acute conditions, from 83 to 68.4 per 10,000 residents.

Potentially preventable hospitalizations are identified through a set of indicators developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Using the condition and diagnosis codes under which patients are admitted, the indicators point to hospitalizations that were potentially avoidable with timely and effective outpatient care or disease management.  The word “potentially” is important when analyzing the data, because not all hospitalizations included under that criteria may be preventable. Yet, identifying conditions with higher rates provides actionable information by highlighting areas where early detection, timely care, and patient education might lead to improved patient outcomes and decreased costs.

Overall, 185,190 of the approximately 1.5 million inpatient stays in 2010, or about 12.4 percent, fell into the potentially preventable classification. The three conditions with the highest percent of such hospitalizations were heart failure at 24.8 percent, COPD or asthma in older adults, at 21.1 percent, and bacterial pneumonia at 17.4 percent.

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