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Howard G. Smith, M.D. is a former radio medical editor and talk show host in the Boston Metro area.  His "Medical Minute" of health and wellness news and commentary was a regular weekday feature on WBZ-AM, WRKO-AM, and WMRE-AM.   His popular two-way talk show, Dr. Howard Smith OnCall, was regularly heard Sunday morning and middays on WBZ.

More recently, Dr. Smith has adopted the 21st century technology of audio and video podcasting as conduits for the short health and wellness reports, HEALTH NEWS YOU SHOULD USE.  Many of these have video versions, and they may be found on his YouTube page:

Trained at Harvard Medical School and a long-time faculty member at Boston Children’s Hospital, he practiced Pediatric Otolaryngology for 40 years in Boston, Southern California, and in central Connecticut.

If you have questions or suggestions about this content, please email the doctor at or leave him a message at 516-778-8864.  His website is:

Please note that the news, views, commentary, and opinions that Dr. Smith provides are for informational purposes only.  Any changes that you or members of your family contemplate making to lifestyle, diet, medications, or medical therapy should always be discussed beforehand with personal physicians who have been supervising your care.

Jan 9, 2019

Campaigns by Medicare to reduce patient readmissions to a hospital within a month following discharge, the so-called Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, is associated with more patient deaths from heart failure and pneumonia rather than improvement in care quality.  This is the conclusion of a study of some 8 million hospitalizations over a decade beginning in 2005 was completed and recently published by Harvard cardiologists at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Mass. General Hospital.


They compared post-hospital mortality statistics before and after announcement and implementation of new financial penalties for hospitals to discourage readmission within a month after discharge.  Their findings suggested that this penny pinching resulted in some 8,000 deaths from heart failure and some 12,000 deaths from pneumonia that could have possibly been avoided.


In addition, many sick persons who did return to the hospital were not formally readmitted as inpatients as their condition demanded, but they were instead brought back into the hospital on observation status.  This limbo status permits the hospital to treat them as inpatients but not categorize them as such for insurance purposes skirting the Medicare rules.  


Observation status is a terrible rip-off for patients, since your insurance classifies you as an outpatient, pays the hospital less, and holds you responsible for a greater percentage of the charges that can be considerable for what are essentially complicated and expensive inpatient services such as CT scans and MRIs.


Do not permit the hospital doctors and discharge planners to throw you or family members out prematurely.  If you do have to go back into the hospital, scream until you they admit you as an inpatient and not on observation status.  If you make enough noise, they will reluctantly do the right thing!


#HospitalReadmissionsReduction #heartattack #heartfailure #pneumonia #prematuredischarge #observationstatus

Wadhera RK, Joynt Maddox KE, Wasfy JH, Haneuse S, Shen C, Yeh RW. Association of the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program With Mortality Among Medicare Beneficiaries Hospitalized for Heart Failure, Acute Myocardial Infarction, and Pneumonia. JAMA. 2018;320(24):2542–2552. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.19232