Nearly 1 in 5 Medicare patients who leaves a hospital is readmitted within 30 days, which costs Medicare $17.5 billion in 2010 alone. But most readmissions are preventable. The root causes are poor planning for patients when they return home and breakdowns between doctors and hospitals over who should follow up with patients. A better strategy would be for nurse case-managers in hospitals to prepare patients for discharge, connect them with follow-up care, and check in on them.
Medicare has already challenged hospitals to cut their readmission rates for heart-related illnesses by 20 percent in 2013. Expanding those efforts would accelerate savings and improve care.