York County had fewer potentially preventable hospital stays in the last decade than most of the counties in the state.
That's based on a Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) report that shows statewide preventable hospitalizations fell from 231 per 10,000 residents in 2001 to 186.9 per 10,000 residents in 2010.
The preventable hospitalization rate for York County was well below the state average at 118.9 per 10,000 residents, the report found.
Rates at neighboring counties included: Adams, 120.6; Cumberland, 121; Dauphin, 150.1; and Lancaster, 116.4.
The rates among Pennsylvania counties ranged from 64.7 to 299.4. Of the 67 counties in the state, York ranked number six.
The report examined 12 reasons for hospital stays from 2001 to 2010, including asthma and diabetes. Potentially preventable hospitalizations are determined by a set of indicators developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
The measures: The indicators show hospitalizations that most likely could have been avoided with more effective outpatient care or disease management, a PHC4 news release said.
The word "potentially" is of crucial importance because the makers of the study realize that not all of the stays under the criteria were definitely preventable, the report said.
"Preventive care can reduce unnecessary hospital visits," said Joe Martin, executive director of PHC4. "Every hospital stay avoided through appropriate outpatient care and patient education is generally better for the
patient and more cost-effective."
The three conditions with the highest percentage of hospitalizations that were considered potentially preventable were chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma in older adults, heart failure and bacterial pneumonia.
The good news in the report is that rates of preventable hospitalizations are on the decline in Pennsylvania, said Martin.
Local efforts: "These are definitely important measures, and if we can prevent hospitalizations like this it saves everyone money, and people get good care," said Christine Amy, project director for Aligning Forces for Quality in Southcentral Pennsylvania.
"The healthcare systems in York and Adams County were very aware that they needed to approve," said Amy.
Aligning Forces for Quality is a regional health improvement collaborative that unites the people who give care with the people who receive and pay for care, with a goal of improving the health of individuals in the region. Both York and Gettysburg hospitals work with Aligning Forces for Quality.
"Things are starting to go in a downward trend because the right people are at the table taking the action needed," Amy said. "Measurement like this is important, because if you don't know that you need to improve you are probably not going to improve."
"I think all health systems are moving toward understanding that it is not just about someone in the hospital, but about primary care and serving the community," said Amy.
York County does very well in providing access to healthcare but could improve in helping patients maintain healthy behaviors, she said.
The PHC4 is an independent state agency based in Harrisburg that collects and analyzes information to improve the quality and limit the cost of health care in Pennsylvania. For more information visit www.phc4.org.
--Reach Chelsea Shank at 505-5432 or email@example.com