HCA Healthcare
March 06, 2019

SOURCE: Knoxville News Sentinel

AUTHOR: Kristi L. Nelson

KNOXVILLE — Twenty Tennessee hospitals — including Tennova hospitals in Knoxville and several other cities and Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville — will be penalized by Medicare this fiscal year because they have high rates of infections and patient injuries, a Kaiser Health News analysis found.

These are among 800 hospitals nationwide Kaiser Health News reported will have their federal government payments cut by 1 to 3 percent this fiscal year through the Hospital Acquired Conditions Reduction Program, part of the Affordable Care Act.

The program also penalizes hospitals for too many readmissions, which the program sees as an indicator patients are being released before they're medically ready. In Tennessee, 46 hospitals will lose as much as 3 percent in payments because of their percentage of readmissions, Jordan Rau reported for Kaiser.

Penalties for patient safety issues — infections, blood clots, bedsores, sepsis and injuries from falls among them — cost hospitals 1 percent of those payments.

Each year, Kaiser Health News reported, a fourth of all hospitals, those with the highest rates, are penalized — even if they've improved over the previous year.

This year, 110 hospitals were penalized for patient safety issues for the fifth straight year. In Tennessee, Baptist Memorial Hospital and Regional One Health, both in Memphis, were among them.

East Tennessee hospitals being penalized for patient safety include Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville; Tennova Healthcare-Knoxville; Bristol Regional Medical Center; Sycamore Shoals Hospital in Elizabethton; Newport Medical Center; Parkridge Medical Center in Chattanooga; and Tennova Healthcare-Cleveland.

Middle Tennessee hospitals TriStar Skyline and TriStar Centennial medical centers in Nashville; Livingston Regional Hospital; Tennova Healthcare-Lebanon; Tennova Healthcare-Harton in Tullahoma; and Saint Thomas Dekalb Hospital in Smithville were penalized.

In West Tennessee, hospitals penalized include Jackson-Madison County General Hospital; Baptist Memorial Hospital, Methodist Healthcare hospitals and Regional One Health and St. Francis Hospital in Memphis; and Hardin Medical Center in Savannah.

The program does not evaluate children's hospitals, psychiatric hospitals or Veterans Administration hospitals.

The American Hospital Association has taken the position that the program penalizes hospitals that do a better job of testing for infections and reporting safety issues.

Last year, the AHA co-published a study noting only 40.6 percent of the hospitals penalized in 2017 had scores that were statistically different from the threshold penalty score. The other 59.4 percent did not perform statistically different from the hospitals at the threshold that didn't get penalized, the study said. It argued that the program is not a reliable measure of a hospital's performance.