Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Addressing Costs & Emergency Care

Recently, Governor Edward G. Rendell signed healthcare legislation resulting from his “Prescription for Pennsylvania” healthcare reform plan. The plan helps address the costs for healthcare and the state is now saving the state’s healthcare system billions of dollars since the plan has been implemented statewide.

In May, the Governor signed the legislation that will help the state to continue to contain costs. One of the bills prohibits healthcare providers from seeking reimbursement for a serious, preventable medical error. Approximately 140 patients who experience an adverse medical event that might be both serious and preventable die each year in Pennsylvania hospitals. The total charges for the hospitals amounted to $21.8 million dollars. About 3,500 other patients a year survive an adverse event for which charges are an additional $316 million a year. By signing the bill, it is illegal for healthcare providers to charge when they have made a serious, preventable medical mistake.

Another piece of legislation reauthorizes the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4). The work of the PHC4 is to improve patient safety and healthcare quality outcomes, as well as healthcare cost containment for the state’s purchasers such as businesses and labor unions.

A study showed that PHC4’s public reporting process prevented 1,500 deaths in one year in just six disease and treatment categories. PHC4’s own findings show improvements in hospital care over the past 12 years of public reporting have saved an estimated 49,000 lives and saved $1.7 billion in hospital charges.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the first results of the Governors, “Prescription for Pennsylvania” plan show that the program’s chronic care initiative regarding diabetics is encouraging. Thirty two medical practices in the southeastern part of the state signed up and 44 percent of the 15,000 diabetic patients in the program gained ideal control of their blood sugar. That’s up from 33 percent a year ago. The number of people receiving chronic care attention is expanding and the program now extends to all parts of the state and involves 400 primary care providers covering 750,000 patients.

The state is addressing how best to provide emergency care especially if there is an H1N1 outbreak or any other type of emergency situation. According to the state Health Secretary Everette James, portable hospitals play a key part in Pennsylvania’s preparedness plans. These portable systems are flexible and can be used in areas that don’t have hospitals, or they can be used to support existing hospitals, or used as alternate care sites. The state received funding through HHS to purchase eight 50 bed portable hospital systems that are packaged as tow-behind trailer systems. The hospitals are positioned in strategic locations across the state.

The systems can function in a variety of capacities including triage, acute care and inpatient treatment. They can also be adapted for use as first aid stations, field hospitals, mass immunization sites or used for negative pressure isolation units for suspected infectious disease outbreaks. The portable hospital tent systems can be inflated in five minutes by six trained people and can be operational within two hours of an emergency notification.

Portable hospital staffing will be complemented by various volunteer organizations, including Emergency Medical Services Strike Teams, the State Emergency Registry of Volunteers in Pennsylvania (SERVPA), Medical Reserve Corps, and State Medical Response Teams.