Healthcare News & Insights

Avoid readmissions for homeless patients

Despite all the work hospitals have done to reduce readmissions, they’re still a significant problem. This is particularly true for certain members of the population – including the homeless. 

ThinkstockPhotos-480319723Homeless people have higher rates of readmission for many conditions, and they’re also frequent users of emergency departments. So it’s in hospitals’ best interest to do what they can to handle these issues.

Because more focus is being placed on the continuum of care, hospitals may soon end up not only treating homeless people for their illnesses, but working closely with community organizations and payors to connect them with stable housing options after discharge.

Active role

A recent article from the Health Affairs blog describes how many carriers and healthcare organizations are taking a more proactive role in helping homeless patients get secure, safe housing.

Homeless people rack up high healthcare costs. And they often don’t receive the required follow-up care after a hospital stay. So more frequently, payors are collaborating with local community housing organizations to make sure homeless people have a stable place to stay after discharge – and get help with coordinating their care.

Example: The San Francisco Health Plan (SFHP) partnered with a local neighborhood development corporation and the San Francisco Health Department to provide the funds required to renovate a housing development. The new residential community contains housing units for SFHP’s most costly homeless patients, along with an onsite federally qualified health center.

Not only does this arrangement give high-risk homeless people a permanent, safe home, it also improves their access to health resources in the community – which reduces the chance they’ll seek expensive care through the ED.

While most hospitals might not be able to refer their patients to a similar community, it’s smart to find out exactly what help your community may offer for patients who don’t have permanent homes.

After that, the next step is reaching out and forming relationships with these community groups or organizations so staff can suggest these resources to patients in need.

Connecting patients with resources

Identifying which patients may need this community assistance is crucial. The faster a patient has the proper resources in place for their discharge, the better the chances of a complication-free recovery.

According to a piece from the Huffington Post: One thing hospitals can do immediately is start asking patients about their housing situation upon admission. In many cases, hospital staff members just assume a homeless patient will be discharged to a shelter to recover. But this may not be true in all cases.

And even if a homeless person does end up back in a shelter, it’s not the most stable environment. Many are only allowed to sleep there at night, being discharged in the morning to walk the streets. This isn’t conducive to recovery, especially after a complicated procedure or surgery.

Instead of making assumptions, hospitals should have a clear idea of where patients will be staying after they leave the facility. If they don’t have a permanent place to stay, that’s when facilities should connect them with community resources to help figure out an alternative.

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