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For the last few years, the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI) has used PHC4 data to produce reports and recommendations that are intended to help providers increase the quality of health care in southwest Pennsylvania. Using acute care admissions data from 11 counties in the Pittsburgh area, PRHI strives to reduce hospital readmission rates for many chronic conditions.

“We started out using PHC4 data a few years ago to produce regional reports on the prevalence and readmission rates of chronic conditions, like COPD, heart failure, asthma, and diabetes,” said Colleen Vrbin, Senior Research Analyst with the PRHI. “However, once we really dug into the data, we started finding some really interesting phenomena.”

During the past 18 months, PRHI has expanded its findings to include analyses of data on populations typically excluded from hospital performance reports—HIV patients, patients that leave against medical advice, etc. PRHI published a brief on patterns of admission and readmission among HIV patients in southwestern Pennsylvania, with some surprising results. The brief showed that readmission rates for HIV patients were substantially higher than for the non-HIV patient population for conditions not specific to HIV, and suggested opportunities for reducing readmissions.

According to Ms. Vrbin, “PHC4 data is a one-of-a-kind, beyond-rich, source for health care research. Their data allows us to do research with actionable results. We’re not producing reports just for the sake of research; we’re creating guidelines and best practices that are savings countless lives in the Pittsburgh area. Everyone benefits from what we’re doing.”

One of these life-saving reports is the PRHI Readmission Reduction Guide, which lays out 56 pages of advice to physicians and facilities to provide patients with better care to reduce readmission rates.

Continuing its “outside the box” approach to health care research, PRHI is getting ready for an upcoming release of a brief on patients who are admitted to the hospital 10 or more times in a 2 year period. Studying small, targeted, and expensive subsets of patients has been a successful strategy for PRHI. Another population PRHI plans on studying closer is patients that leave the hospital against medical advice. Finding ways to decrease the readmission rates for these two populations of patients will yield a savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the future, in addition to improved quality of care.

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