Last week the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) released a report on “Preventable Hospitalizations” or hospitalizations that could have been prevented if the medical condition had been treated earlier and on an outpatient basis. The report is based on data collected between 1999 and 2008.
Why do preventable hospitalizations matter? First and foremost, it is better to be less sick and to take care of medical problems before they escalate to the level where hospitalization is required. From a broader perspective, outpatient care is less effective, less expensive, and less risky (hospital acquired infections) than hospital care.
Where there were decreases in preventable hospitalizations, examining best practices around how to deliver accessible primary and preventive care can bring to light keys to reducing the incidence of major illnesses. Conversely, examining the contexts in which preventable hospitalizations are high can provide insight into areas where access to ambulatory care is lacking.
Overall, the data indicates that preventable hospitalizations decreased 6.8%. However preventable hospitalizations increased in relation to 3 highly prevalent health conditions: diabetes, urinary tract infections, and hypertension. The data also reveals some glaring disparities, with African Americans and residents of South Los Angeles being hospitalized at 2 or 3 times the state average. (Read more here.)
This report backs the notion that prevention saves money, and reinforces the importance of investing in preventive care, access to primary care, care coordination for those with chronic illnesses, etc.—all provisions of the Affordable Care Act that Republicans are currently attempting to defund and repeal.