The high number of readmissions within 30 days is an issue that all hospitals are currently seeking to analyze and improve. In order to do so, it is crucial to assess and improve current practices and develop innovative new policies and procedures that will help patients to recover quickly without need for readmission within a short period of time.
The Importance of Reducing Readmissions
Currently, about one in five Medicare patients are being readmitted to hospitals within 30 days due to secondary conditions that have arisen since discharge after treatment of an initial condition such as heart failure or pneumonia. To reduce this number, hospitals have begun to modify and improve patient care while the patient is hospitalized as well as after the patient has been discharged.
The number one cited way to reduce readmissions is to ensure top quality care while the patient is hospitalized. By ensuring that patients receive the correct diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and correct medicine, readmission rates can be greatly reduced. Additionally, attending to patients' basic needs such as sleep and nutrition helps patients to build the strength to recover without acquiring a secondary condition.
More Tools for Reducing Readmission
While providing care in hospitals is important, there are also many different things that need to be done once the patient is no longer under the hospital’s care.
One of the number one ways to reduce readmission rates is to provide patients with follow up support after they have been discharged. Many hospitals call these “coaches.” The coach's sole position is to routinely follow up with patients over a period of time until the patient has recovered. Follow up begins by phone or in person within 48 hours and can last as long as necessary. Some of the responsibilities of a coach may include discussing pain, verifying that patients are taking their medicine, confirming the effectiveness of the prescribed medication, helping to make follow up appointments with specialists or primary care physicians, inquiring about any possibly complications, and overall insurance that patients have the tools and education to move forward with recovery.
Another important technique hospitals must employ in order to help patients to recover and improve their health is to provide adequate education. Helping patients to identify lifestyle choices that may have put them at risk for the condition that caused their hospitalization can assist patients in making healthier choices that prevent future hospital visits. Additionally, educating patients on resources that they can access after discharge such as nutritionists or smoking cessation programs can give patients the tools they need to be successful in improving their health and achieving a quick recovery.
A final change that successful hospitals have made in order to reduce readmissions is creating alignment with community care centers. By aligning with other doctors and specialists in the community and by using hospital information technology, patients can receive a “continuum of care.” This will allow hospitals to immediately recommend specialists or primary care physicians to patients upon discharge. Those community care centers then have immediate access to patient files to understand the care that has been provided and to be able to appropriately move forward in helping the patient. The transition from hospital to community doctors is seamless for the patient and saves time for both patients and doctors.
By looking both within and outside the hospital a holistic approach at improvement can be achieved and hospital readmission rates can be successfully reduced by every hospital.
About the Author
Christy Rakoczy has a JD from UCLA School of Law and an undergraduate degree in English Media and Communications from University of Rochester. Her career background includes teaching at the college level as well as working in the insurance and legal industries. She is currently a full-time writer who specializes in the legal, financial and healthcare sectors. Ms. Rakoczy writes online content as well as textbooks for adult learners.