Reducing preventable hospitalizations is fundamental to the "triple aim" of improving care, improving health, and reducing costs. New federal government initiatives that create strong pressure to reduce such hospitalizations are being or will soon be implemented. These initiatives use quality measures to define which hospitalizations are preventable. Reducing hospitalizations could greatly benefit frail and chronically ill adults and older people who receive long-term care (LTC) because they often experience negative effects of hospitalization, including hospital-acquired conditions, morbidity, and loss of functional abilities. Conversely, reducing hospitalizations could mean that some people will not receive hospital care they need, especially if the selected measures do not adequately define hospitalizations that can be prevented without jeopardizing the person's health and safety. An extensive literature search identified 250 measures of preventable hospitalizations, but the measures have not been validated in the LTC population and generally do not account for comorbidity or the capacity of various LTC settings to provide the required care without hospitalization. Additional efforts are needed to develop measures that accurately differentiate preventable from necessary hospitalizations for the LTC population, are transparent and fair to providers, and minimize the potential for gaming and unintended consequences. As the new initiatives take effect, it is critical to monitor their effect and to develop and disseminate training and resources to support the many community- and institution-based healthcare professionals and emergency department staff involved in decisions about hospitalization for this population.
© 2012, Copyright the Authors Journal compilation © 2012, The American Geriatrics Society.