Healthcare News & Insights

Patient care: Nationwide initiative helps hospitals in 3 key areas

In a climate where hospitals are facing financial penalties for failing to meet quality measures, one nationwide initiative has managed to yield gains in three key aspects of patient care.

These areas are:

  • reducing readmissions
  • improving language services, and
  • improving patient flow in the ER.

Over 100 hospitals in 16 geographic areas of the United States took part in the Aligning Forces for Quality initiative, created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

During an 18-month period, the hospitals in this initiative collaborated virtually through webinars, sharing data and best practices with each other, and tailored their patient care based on the findings.

In each focus area, the results were striking.

Reducing readmissions

With The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) poised to start penalizing hospitals for their readmission rates as of Oct. 1, reducing readmissions is at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Sixty percent of hospitals participating in the Aligning Forces for Quality initiative managed to decrease their readmissions rates, avoiding over 480 readmissions within 30 days of discharge.

One participating hospital, Samaritan Albany General Hospital in New York, decreased its readmission rates for patients with heart failure — one of the conditions CMS will be focusing on — by:

  • Starting patient education early: The hospital begins educating patients about proper care the moment they’re admitted. Providers even give patients “Heart Care Failure Care Kits” once they arrive.
  • Involving all departments: Patients work with pharmacists, nutritionists and other care providers throughout their stay. This ensures all their needs are met before they’re discharged.
  • Using the “teach-back” method: After providers present a care plan to patients, patients repeat back what they learned to make sure they have a correct understanding of what they need to do to stay healthy.
  • Following up: The hospital calls patients shortly after they’ve been discharged to check up on their progress.

This multifaceted approach reduced patient readmissions due to heart failure from 23.6% to 11%.

Improving language services

It can be tough for a hospital to respond to the needs of patients for whom English is a second language, especially if there’s a limited number of translators on staff.

To identify the need for translators, each hospital participating in this portion of the initiative developed a standardized screening process to determine the preferred spoken and written language for each patient.

As a result, 20 participating hospitals improved their language services to patients by identifying and targeting their specific needs. Some even used technology to make their language services more efficient.

Steward St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, in Boston, started using handheld touch devices instead of its former dispatch system so translators could receive language requests more efficiently.

The new system allows translators to only receive requests for the language they speak. Translators can communicate with clinicians directly with their devices, and clinicians can track each request remotely.

These innovations have increased productivity, reducing the wait time for a translator in the hospital to 10 minutes.

Improving patient flow

Increasing wait times in hospital emergency departments is an ongoing problem, one that hospitals participating in the initiative tackled successfully.

Fifty-five percent of hospitals participating in the initiative managed to reduce the time patients spent in the ER by an average of 30 minutes.

A small hospital in Maine, the HD Goodall Hospital, took a unique approach in streamlining the patient flow in its emergency department.

When space is available, the hospital takes new patients straight to a room for intake and registration, decreasing time spent in the waiting room.

If there aren’t any open beds, a “concierge” greets patients in the waiting room to register them.

The concierge acts as a go-between between the patient’s family and hospital staff members, personally informing patients of wait times and delays.

Not only does the concierge help put patients at ease, the person also helps the ED operate more efficiently, ensuring someone’s there to attend to patients’ needs and inquiries so the rest of the staff can focus on providing care as quickly as possible.

 

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