Healthcare News & Insights

Hospital readmissions become RARE with new initiative

Hospitals everywhere are looking to do anything within their power to cut down on preventable readmissions in patients. One state’s hospitals used a five-step plan to tackle this growing problem — with considerable success.

141333082According to a press release, in Minnesota, 83 hospitals joined with 93 other community healthcare partners to launch the RARE (Reducing Avoidable Readmissions Effectively) campaign.

When the RARE campaign began, the state had a 30-day readmissions rate of nearly 1 in 5 for Medicare patients. The goal of the campaign was simple: To chip away at this problem by preventing 6,000 avoidable hospital readmissions between July 2011 and December 2013.

Before hitting their big goal, the coalition had a smaller one, which was to reduce the number of avoidable readmissions by 4,000 by December 2012. By the end of last year, the hospitals surpassed that goal, preventing 4,570 readmissions. This amounts to an approximately 17% reduction in hospital readmissions and an estimated $40 million in savings.

How the hospitals met their goal

So what strategies did these hospitals use to meet this benchmark?

They strengthened their performance in five key areas which, when properly emphasized, have the potential to drastically affect the readmissions rate.

  1. Comprehensive discharge planning. Patients who didn’t have a clear understanding of how to care for themselves after discharge were more likely to return to the hospital. So hospitals that participated in the RARE campaign created a detailed discharge plan for patients. It carefully laid out the steps patients needed to take upon leaving the hospital. The plan was straightforward and easy for patients to read, and it outlined all the important details about the patient’s condition and the necessary treatment.
  2. Medication management. Here, hospitals focused on making sure patients understood the importance of taking prescribed medications properly. Staff collected a list of the medications the patient was taking, and then updated it with any changes made in the hospital. Patients were directly asked if they understood how to take their medications. Those with more than five prescribed medications, or more than two medication changes in the hospital, were referred for follow-up visits with other healthcare professionals to help them manage their prescriptions.
  3. Patient and family engagement. Involving the patient’s family was key to reducing readmissions. Family members helped patients adhere to their post-discharge treatment plans and watched for any signs that the treatment wasn’t working. At these hospitals, families were armed with info about the patient’s condition to help them spot any problems that could lead to readmission – and to help them resolve these issues before they caused too much harm to the patient.
  4. Transition care support. Using existing healthcare networks, hospital patients were scheduled for follow-up appointments for their specific conditions as soon as possible. All these required treatments were coordinated in the hospital, with all pertinent details documented for easy reference.
  5. Transition communications. Having a proper communication process made excellent patient care possible. These hospitals adhered to a communication protocol that was followed by all the staff. Anyone involved in a communication breakdown was held liable for their actions, and the problem was swiftly corrected. Staff members were trained to give all health-related info clearly to patients. To encourage that patients played an active role in their recovery, staffers spoke to patients in a way that allowed their concerns and preferences to be considered when designing a plan of treatment. Patients and their family members were also encouraged to ask questions if they didn’t understand something about their care plan or treatment.

Along with using these tools, the RARE campaign is making strides to deliver even more significant results. The next step is to work on care coordination between the hospitals and various community partners (such as primary care clinics and long-term care facilities) so patients will receive better care outside hospital walls and hopefully avoid being readmitted.

For more info about the RARE campaign, including detailed explanations of each step the hospitals took, visit the campaign’s website.

 

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