Vermont was the only state that failed to lower how many Medicare patients were readmitted to its hospitals within 30 days during the period from 2010 to 2015, according to new data.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as CMS, announced Tuesday that Vermont's readmissions for Medicare patients went up by 21 people out of roughly 16,000 hospital admissions per year — meaning they stayed almost level.
Statistically, the federal government does not consider the 21 readmissions an increase. But the result stands in contrast to the national readmission rate reduction of 8 percent and the 49 other states and the District of Columbia that all lowered readmissions.
Forty-three of those 49 states saw their readmission rates fall more than 5 percent, and 11 states — including New York, Maryland, Hawaii and Rhode Island — saw their readmission rates fall more than 10 percent.
"Potentially avoidable hospital readmissions that occur within 30 days of a patient's initial discharge are estimated to account for more than $17 billion in Medicare expenditures annually," doctors for CMS said in a press release. "Not only are readmissions costly, but they are often a sign of poor quality care."
"Many readmissions can be avoided through improvements in care, such as making sure that patients leave the hospital with appropriate medications, instructions for follow-up care, and follow-up appointments scheduled to make sure their recovery stays on track," the doctors said.
Jeff Tieman, the chief executive officer of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, which represents the state's 14 hospitals, said Vermont's readmission rate remains lower than rates in about half the other states.
Vermont's rate was a fraction over 15 percent.
"Our hospitals recognize that it can be hard to make progress on these types of measures when your state is already a strong performer, but they are focused on continuing to reduce readmissions even further by improving the way we coordinate and integrate care," Tieman said.