- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

LEBANON, N.H. (AP) - A new study shows several New Hampshire hospitals doing well when it comes to patients staying healthy after they return home.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services evaluated nearly 3,400 hospitals on how often patients were readmitted after being treated for heart failure, heart attack, pneumonia and other ailments. According to its recent report, a record 2,610 hospitals face an estimated $428 million in penalties for having high re-admission rates.

In New Hampshire, only Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon and Catholic Medical Center in Manchester had zero penalties in each of the past three years. Keene’s Cheshire Medical Center and Exeter Hospital also had no penalties this year. Exeter was one of three hospitals that had no penalties for two of the last three years; the others were Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester and Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia.

Many hospitals are exempted from the penalties, including certain cancer hospitals and critical access hospitals. Only 13 of the state’s 26 hospitals were included in the report.

Darlene Saler, who directs patient flow and care transitions at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, attributed the hospital’s low readmission rate to decades of work to take a more holistic view of treating patients and improve coordination of support services as they return home. Physicians and other health care providers work closely with outside support agencies, she said, to ensure that patients understand their conditions and medications, and that caregivers know to watch for signs of changes in their conditions.

At Cheshire Medical Center, officials created “hospital slots” in each physician’s schedule to make it easier for discharged patients to see a provider a few days after being sent home if necessary.

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