Some hospital visits are inevitable, but many are preventable. Over the past decade, potentially preventable hospitalizations have declined in the commonwealth. The most recent report [PDF] from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) tracked 12 conditions and found that in the last ten years the rate of potentially preventable hospitalizations dropped from 231 per 100,000 residents in 2001 to 186.9 per 100,000 in 2010.
The independent state agency said not all hospital visits can be prevented.
"But many of them can," said PHC4 Spokesman Gary Tuma. "What we found is that one out of every eight hospitalizations in 2010 fell into this category of conditions or diagnoses that might have been preventable had the person gotten proper treatment in the stages before they reached the hospital."
One of the goals of the report is to start a dialogue between policy makers, health care providers and the public about the nature of health care in their communities, the nature of primary care, and the nature of early intervention. Tuma said it's clear there's a breakdown somewhere in the primary care chain, but it's not clear exactly where that breakdown is.
"It could be with the patient themselves sometimes. They may not be following the instructions. There may be things in their support system that prevents them from following the instructions. It could be something like access to transportation, you know, something not medically related, but something that prevents them from following instructions," he said.
There's no overall cost estimate related to these hospital stays, but cutting down on potentially preventable hospitalizations could be a money-saver for the health care industry.
"Just for Medicare patients, the cost of these hospitalizations was $480 million in 2010, so that's a sizeable amount of money, and again, that's just for one population — the Medicare population," said Tuma.
The three conditions with the highest percent of potentially preventable hospitalizations were heart failure, COPD or asthma in older adults, and bacterial pneumonia. 43% of the preventable hospital stays were for adults between the ages of 65 and 84. The average stay in the hospital was 4.7 days.