Healthcare News & Insights

Occupational therapy in hospitals boosts quality, lowers readmissions

Hospitals make many financial investments in an attempt to improve patient care and reduce readmissions. With all the options available, it can be tough to know which areas provide the most bang for your buck. New research calls attention to a different approach to improving patient care that your facility might not have considered yet. 

A study published in the Medical Care Research and ReviewTablet with the text Occupational Therapy on the display journal looked at various spending categories related to patient treatment in hospitals.

In a press release about the study, researchers compared the amount spent in each area to its general impact on readmissions rates.

Out of all areas reviewed, there was only one where spending more money had a significant effect on readmissions: occupational therapy.

Benefits of OT

Additional spending for providing hospital patients with occupational therapy services lowered readmissions rates for three of Medicare’s most scrutinized health conditions: heart failure, heart attack and pneumonia.

According to researchers, occupational therapy helps with one of the biggest concerns at the end of a hospital stay – whether patients can be safely discharged to their homes or to another environment (such as a skilled nursing facility).

Occupational therapists are able to evaluate each patient’s current ability to perform necessary daily tasks without assistance. If there are any issues, the therapists can work with patients to address them before they jeopardize recovery after discharge. This can be especially important for elderly patients.

Per the news release, occupational therapists can perform six key functions to reduce readmissions rates in hospitals:

  1. Give patients’ caregivers recommendations and training so they can play a more active role in the recovery process.
  2. Determine whether patients are able to live independently after their hospital stay, or if they need further intervention/assistance (e.g., rehabilitation, nursing care).
  3. Address any existing disabilities with assistive devices so patients can perform basic daily activities (e.g., bathing, getting dressed, using the bathroom, cooking).
  4. Evaluate patients’ homes and suggest modifications to keep them safe (e.g., reducing fall hazards).
  5. Assess patients’ cognitive and physical abilities to see if they’re able to follow post-discharge instructions for their treatment (e.g., ability to open medication containers without assistance).
  6. Work with physical therapists to improve the quality of patients’ rehabilitation during their hospital stay.

Because “occupational therapy places a unique and immediate focus on patients’ functional and social needs,” researchers said, it can prevent many of the problems that can eventually cause them to be readmitted to the hospital.

Occupational therapy may not be valued as much for patients in acute-care settings. But even with short hospital stays, having an occupational therapist evaluate each patient is helpful – especially considering that a patient’s level of independent function at discharge tends to be related to his or her overall health outcomes.

Given the potential benefits, it’s an excellent idea to evaluate how much money your facility is spending on various treatment options to see if there’s room to add occupational therapy into the mix.

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