PA hospital deaths down, readmissions up

The 2009 hospital performance report from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council says general hospitals in the state have steadily improved in the 20 categories of care tracked in the previous seven years.

In those categories, the death rate fell form 5.1 percent in 2002 to 4.1 percent in 2009. At the same time, in 15 areas where the independent state agency tracked readmissions, the rate of patients needing to return to the hospital within a month of their initial discharge rose almost a full percentage point from 18.3 percent in 2002 to 19.2 percent in 2009.


Readmissions can be costly in both human and economic terms, according to the cost containment council’s report. In 2009 the 58,000 patients readmitted to the hospitals spent a combined total of 343,000 extra days in hospitals and racked up $2.6 billion in additional hospital bills. The report noted that hospitals generally get paid about 25 percent of the amount they charge, even so, that would mean hospital readmissions cost $625 million in 2009.

And complications directly related to the patients’ care and infections were the cause of 21,688 of those readmissions,  resulting in 150,000 extra days of hospital care and $1.1 billion in charges.

“The report illustrates the importance of preventing infections and reducing complications to every extent possible since nearly 40 percent of readmissions can be attributed to these causes,” said Joe Martin, the Cost Containment Council’s executive director.

The report is available at the agency’s website ( and is  broken into three regional sections:


Hospitals’ written responses can be found here.

An analysis of performance of area hospitals was performed by the Delaware Valley Health Care Council, which represents area hospitals. Based on that reanalysis, Kate Flynn, president of The Health Care Improvement Foundation, an offshoot of the hospital group, said that area hospitals were making progress on quality improvement.

“Hospitals in the region undertake many individual and collective efforts to reduce infections and complications and build cultures that support the high-reliability delivery of safe, effective care,” Flynn said. “It’s very rewarding to see that these efforts are making such a positive impact.”

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