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RMU Joins Health Care Partnership to Reduce Preventable Hospitalizations

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pittsburgh – The School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Robert Morris University is partnering with four Pittsburgh-area health care organizations in a federally-funded initiative to help reduce preventable hospital admissions among long-stay nursing home residents, which cost the nation as much as $8 billion each year.

The regional effort is one of seven nationwide that received a grant Thursday from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) aimed at improving care at nursing homes and reducing preventable hospitalizations.

Leading the initiative locally is UPMC Community Provider Services. Heritage Valley Health System, Excela Health, and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation are also partners. These organizations will work with 16 nursing homes in Western Pennsylvania to keep residents from returning to the hospital unnecessarily.

“RMU’s role is provide high involvement, learner-centered education and training experiences that lead to improved care and support for elders and persons living with disabilities in western Pennsylvania,” said Joseph Angelelli, director of the Health Services Administration degree program at RMU who is heading up the university’s efforts in the project.

RMU will help to educate and support nurse practitioners to work in each participating nursing home. The university will provide training for nursing home staff on-site (via mobile simulation) and on-campus through its Regional Research and Innovation in Simulation Education (RISE) Center.

Pittsburgh has one of the highest hospital readmissions rates in the United States, according to the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative. Readmission is when a patient must return to the hospital within 30 days of being discharged. The federal Affordable Care Act – the health care reform package President Obama signed into law in 2010 – includes financial incentives for health systems to work collaboratively with a wide range of long-term care and community partners to reduce preventable hospitalizations, as well as penalties for hospitals with high readmission rates.

“It's truly great news all around to have this level of collaboration among innovative clinicians and educators in the region. Many other local long-term living organizations will benefit from the regional investment in knowledge and skills development that this and other projects like it represent," said Angelelli.

Nationwide, the initiative will test models to improve the quality of care and help reduce avoidable hospitalizations among nursing home residents by funding organizations that provide enhanced on-site services and supports to nursing facility residents.  

Nearly two-thirds of nursing home residents are enrolled in Medicaid, and most are also enrolled in Medicare. These Medicare-Medicaid enrollees are among the most fragile and chronically ill individuals served by the programs. Research found that approximately 45 percent of hospitalizations among Medicare-Medicaid enrollees receiving either Medicare skilled nursing facility services or Medicaid nursing facility services could have been avoided. 

 “We are excited about this partnership and the programs these seven organizations are putting in place to work with nursing facilities to ensure the best possible care for their residents,” said CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “We view this initiative and the enhanced level of collaboration it will generate among a variety of providers as the key to reducing costly and avoidable hospitalizations for this population that often has the most complex health care needs.”

Robert Morris University, founded in 1921, is a private, four-year institution with an enrollment of approximately 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university offers 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. An estimated 22,000 alumni live and work in western Pennsylvania.