State agency revises numbers in preventable hospitalization report

By Mark Guydish - [email protected]

Citing an error beyond its control, a state agency revised numbers released in an April report on the rate of potentially preventable hospitalizations. The revisions did not change the overall decline in preventable admissions from 2008 to 2017, but it did increase the rate — admissions per 10,000 residents – for all regional counties.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) first released the research brief “Potentially Preventable hospitalizations in Pennsylvania” April 26. The brief looked at hospital admissions for conditions that “might have been avoided with effective primary or preventive care,” including pneumonia, high blood pressure, urinary tract infection and several conditions resulting from diabetes.

The primary gauge calculated to compare data from each of the state’s 67 counties was the rate per 10,000 residents. That calculation, in turn, relied on population data files from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. On May 7, AHRQ issued a letter to PHC4 explaining the error, prompting the state agency to issue a revised brief this week.

The revisions did not impact the general trends in the original brief, nor did it dramatically change the local trends reported in a Times Leader story published on page 1A on April 30. As the story reported, the trend statewide and in Luzerne and seven adjacent counties has been a decline in potentially preventable hospitalizations.

But the changes tend to shrink the percentage of the declines. The original report showed a 28 percent decline in the preventable admissions rate statewide. The revised numbers show a 23 percent decline.

Similarly, the original data showed Luzerne County with a 19 percent decline in the rate. The new data shows a drop of 18.2 percent.

The original data also showed that three neighboring counties — Lackawanna, Carbon and Schuylkill — had seen similar drops but remained above the state rate in 2017. The new data shows that Wyoming County also remained above the state rate (204 admissions per 10,000 residents compared to 169.6 statewide).

The correction had the biggest impact regionally in Sullivan County data. The original report showed the rate of preventable hospitalizations there had plummeted from 191.5 admissions per 10,000 residents in 2008 to 35.8 per 10,000 in 2017. The revised report shows the rate slipping from 204.4 to 155.9.

In releasing the revised research brief, PHC4 Executive Director Joe Martin noted in an email that the council “has a longstanding relationship with AHRQ, and while disappointed in this development, continue to value their work and assistance in broadening public health care reporting.”

By Mark Guydish

[email protected]

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish