Healthcare News & Insights

Social factors affect readmissions for 3 conditions in hospitals

Pneumonia, heart failure and heart attacks are three of the top conditions Medicare’s evaluating to judge hospitals based on 30-day readmission rates. Although there are several aspects of treating patients for these illnesses hospitals can influence, there are other factors outside of a facility’s control. So hospitals may have to look deeper to make significant improvements. 

As detailed in a news release, a research study from the University of Michigan showed the impact of various social factors related to health and disability, such as mobility and socioeconomic status, on readmission rates for these three illnesses.

Family, money & more

The full study was recently published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Per the results of the study, here are some factors impacting readmissions that you may not have considered.

Pneumonia patients who had trouble completing tasks like getting dressed or cooking food on their own (or those who needed paid help to do these things) before they entered the hospital were the most likely pneumonia patients to be readmitted within 30 days.

With heart failure patients, the key factors that affected whether they’d be readmitted were finances, family and race. People with more money were less likely to be readmitted than poorer people. Patients with adult children also had lower chances of readmission. And African-Americans were the most likely to be readmitted for heart failure.

Meanwhile, heart attack survivors who were in a nursing home before their hospital stay had a higher chance of being readmitted to the hospital. In addition, heart attack patients at hospitals that cared for a high percentage of minority patients were more likely to be readmitted within 30 days.

What hospitals can do

Many of these factors were impacting patients’ lives before they were even admitted to the hospital for their initial stay, so healthcare executives may feel their hands are tied regarding any actions they can take to mitigate any impact on readmissions for pneumonia, heart attack or heart failure.

However, hospital staff can gather basic demographic information from these patients and use it to determine which ones may have a higher risk of being readmitted. Then, staff can offer them additional support, such as follow-up home visits, transportation services or referrals to community resources.

In many cases, this data can be collected and saved in a facility’s electronic health records (EHR) system, so it can be accessed quickly by all clinicians on the care team when they’re assessing a patient’s condition and health needs before discharge.

Giving these patients additional support could mean the difference between a smooth recovery after being discharged and multiple admissions to the hospital. And that could cause a significant drop in your facility’s readmission rates.

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