- CATEGORIES: Businesses,Charu Raheja, PhD,Data and Research,Doctors and Hospitals,Improve Your Practice,Nurse Learning Center,Research,Research for Providers,Technology,Technology for Providers
- No comments
Improve Healthcare Access and Reduce Hospital Readmissions
Print this Article
By Charu G. Raheja, PhD and Kayla Broadrick
Over the last few months, hospitals have been charged by Medicaid in record-breaking numbers for readmission of patients. Medicare fined a hospital if it had a higher number of readmissions than the agency deemed appropriate based on the hospital’s mix of patients and how the hospital industry performed overall. ( see KHN analysis below) Hospitals are being charged in order to add a layer of accountability and to force them to pay closer attention to what happens to their patients after discharge.
Though fines have reduced the national readmission rates, roughly one in five Medicaid patients are still finding themselves returning to the hospital within thirty days. Most patients who were readmitted suffered from one of five conditions: heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, chronic lung problems, or elective hip or knee replacements.
One of the main reasons patients come back to hospitals is because of poor follow-up care. Below we provide some cost-effective tips to ensure that patients follow up with their care after the hospital visit.
- Discharge Communication: One of the most beneficial ways for a hospital to reduce readmission is to have very clear communication with the patient before and during the discharge. Patients who understand their condition are more likely to be able to take care of and maintain their health once discharged. Additionally, patients who have a clear and concise plan for recovery and maintenance after discharge are better equipped to make the right decisions when it comes to their health, keeping them from ending up hospital beds again in less than a month. The few extra minutes it takes a nurse to clarify medical terms and answer patient questions goes a long way and saves money for the hospital in the long run.
- Access to a Health Care Professional 24/7 – Patients can have a lot of questions about their medications or symptoms following the hospital visit. Easy and free access to a healthcare professional such as telephone nurse line can be very effective in preventing readmissions. Triage nurses can develop a relationship with patients by calling them once they go home to check on the patient, answer medication questions, document and triage new symptoms, and remind patients about the nurse line. Some telephone nurse groups such as Triage LogicTM also offer easy access to a nurse-on-call by having an app that patients can download to their smart phones and request a phone call.
- Follow-up care. Hospital patients may or may not have a primary care physician, but they need follow-up care. It is essential for the hospital communicate with the patients’ primary care providers or refer them to a primary care doctor. This way a medical professional with access to the patient’s history can follow up with each patient after discharge. Follow-up consultation allows patients to share questions about recurring symptoms or side effects of medication giving the patient confidence in their ability to discern when they should and should not seek emergency medical attention. In addition, this brings continuity of care to the patient which allows the hospital to be sure the patient can maintain their health without coming for another stay.
Hospital readmissions cost our healthcare system billions of dollars each year. Proper patient and provider communication, 24/7 accessibility to a nurse triage line, and follow up care can help drastically reduce patient readmissions and help hospitals avoid future Medicare fees.
Budryk, Zack (10/18/2013), 4 Ways Hospitals Can Prevent Readmissions, Retrieved from: http://www.fiercehealthcare.com/special-reports/4-ways-hospitals-can-prevent-readmissions
Rau, Jorda, (08/03/2015), Half of Nation’s Hospitals Fail Again to Escape Medicare’s Readmission Penalties, Retrieved from: http://khn.org/news/half-of-nations-hospitals-fail-again-to-escape-medicares-readmission-penalties/
What to read next: COPD and Hospital Readmissions
TL Connect: What steps has your organization taken to reduce hospital readmissions?