With the advent of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obama Care), it is crucial for hospitals to prevent readmissions to the best of their abilities. Under new law, hospitals with an unacceptably high level of readmissions within 30 days can result in financial penalties that many hospitals cannot afford to sustain.
So, what is causing hospital readmissions? Why are patients who seemed to be well upon discharge being readmitted?
Patients may be admitted to the hospital for various reasons, some of them life-changing. Often, upon discharge, patients are expected to return to their Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) for follow up care. However, if the hospital and the patient both fail to communicate with the Primary Care Physician, this part of the process can easily fall apart. If the hospital fails to communicate, the Primary Care Physician fails to have record of the tests, findings, diagnosis and prognosis of the hospital physicians. If the patient fails to follow up, there is no means of ensuring the level of pro-discharge care is being met.
When a patient is discharged, he is given information on how to care for himself, or for caregivers to care for him. Often, discharge papers can be unclear if not explicitly explained by doctors or nurses. This results in poor after-care and the necessary return of a patient.
A doctor or nurse can recommend a patient to visit myriad doctors or providers of other services. However, if the care providers do not consider the situation of the patient, these words will fall on deaf ears. For patients unable to transport themselves, or cannot for any number of reasons, independently visit the recommended follow up care, then it is of little use.
Often, in a multicultural society, it is necessary to consider the needs of patients and adjust medical advice appropriately. If the advice of the doctor is not cohesive with the religious, spiritual or personal beliefs of a patient, the recommendations need to be re-evaluated to ensure the patient's success in properly healing.
A significant way to reduce readmissions is to employ the use of home health services. Organizations like Visiting Nurse Association can visit the home and help with any care necessary. From wound and ostomy treatment to admission of MS medications via IV, home health nurses can provide amazing care that can prevent many from returning to the hospital.
Overall, there are a variety of ways to reduce readmissions, and most are not particularly difficult or time consuming. By improving verbal and written communication, employing empathy, and increasing awareness of patients' varying needs, hospital readmissions can be greatly reduced.