Originally published Wednesday, March 13, 2019 at 07:28p.m.

KINGMAN – Eighty-two percent of hospitals nationwide will be penalized for high readmission rates of patients who returned to a hospital within 30 days after being discharged. Kingman Regional Medical Center is one of them.

High rates of readmissions are not a new phenomenon. The Readmission Reduction Program came with the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Its goal was to reveal such problems to attempt to reduce the overall cost of the program.

Recently, KRMC received a 2.3 percent readmission penalty, which will cost an estimated $700,000 in Medicare payments to the hospital during fiscal year 2019.

In a statement submitted to The Daily Miner, KRMC defined itself as “a ‘safety net’ hospital, serving a large population of low-income and elderly people. (…) Statistics show that hospital readmissions are higher among this demographic because the population is disproportionately more ill.”

According to the statement, the penalty was not based on recent data and does not reflect improvements that were already implemented to reduce the risk of being readmitted to the hospital. Additionally, the program monitors only six severe health conditions and does not factor in people who suffer from multiple severe health conditions.

KRMC is committed to continue addressing the problem. It has opened a post-hospital care clinic and a disease management clinic to help people with chronic health conditions manage their medications. It continues to improve its discharge instructions and better coach patients on how to care for themselves, including a psychiatric consultation service for hospitalized patients.

KRMC has reduced its readmission rates to below the national average.

Another new initiative is an outpatient clinical pharmacy, which offers a new “Meds to Beds” program and provides physician support in “nursing homes” to follow up on and care for patients who are discharged from the hospital to these facilities.

According to KRMC Director of Communications and Marketing Teri Williams, more accountability is good. But it is equally important to not discourage readmissions that are medically necessary.

“Our population is just older,” Williams said. “You might be discharged, but you might just need to get back to a hospital.”

Editor's Note: This story has been changed to reflect that Kingman Regional Medical Center has opened its post-hospital care and disease management clinics.