Healthcare News & Insights

3 unique ways to cut readmissions

Hospitals must try all the strategies they can to reduce readmissions, and it’s wise for them to think outside the box to come up with different ideas they can adapt for their patient mix. Various health systems across the country have launched successful initiatives to improve their patients’ health – and facilities can learn from their experiences. 

As discussed in an article from Managed Healthcare ExecutivGettyImages-482855199e, many of these approaches use everything from teamwork to technology to keep patients from returning to the hospital.

Here are three unique strategies used by hospitals to lower readmission rates:

1. Educating patients in advance

Avoiding complications after surgery is crucial to each patient’s recovery. Here, it’s helpful for patients to play an active role in the process. Some hospitals may wait until the procedure’s complete to hand out discharge instructions, but not the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

To keep patients engaged in their post-surgery recovery for total hip and knee replacements, UPMC lets them know what they can expect before and after the procedure at least three weeks before the surgery’s scheduled to take place. They also encourage patients to start their post-operative exercises right away so they’ll be habits by the time the surgery’s complete.

In addition, staff give patients information about preventing falls and encourage patients to designate a family member or friend as a “coach” to encourage them during the recovery phase.

This multi-faceted approach has helped many of UPMC’s facilities prevent many unnecessary readmissions for its patients.

2. New dressing change protocols

After a procedure’s complete, surgical site infections are all too common complications. Boston’s New England Baptist Hospital looked at how its staff handled wound care for patients after hip and knee surgery.

The result: Wound dressings were being changed too often – and certain standards weren’t being followed to the letter.

Different providers, including physician assistants and nurses, would change patients’ dressings without always adhering to proper hand hygiene or using the correct standards for taping the dressings. That meant the wound was exposed to more germs than necessary, increasing the chance of infection.

To stop this from happening, the hospital changed its approach. Dressings would be changed once, by a nurse only. The nurse would follow all standard protocols. In some cases, dressings wouldn’t be changed in the hospital at all – patients were instructed to remove them at home. Tweaking this process led to fewer infections post-surgery.

3. Using the ‘teach-back’ method

It can be tough for patients to understand their discharge instructions, especially if they already have low health literacy. But if they aren’t fully clear on their responsibility after they leave the hospital, patients can inadvertently make choices that directly lead to their readmission.

That’s why nurses at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Boston are encouraged to use the teach-back method. Here, they educate patients about how they should behave after discharge – and then ask them to explain those instructions to the care team in their own words.

The hospital’s electronic health records (EHR) system prompts nurses to initiate these conversations for patients with certain conditions, such as congestive heart failure.

Not only does using the teach-back method make the information more likely to “stick” in patients’ heads, it also gives them the opportunity to ask questions and clear up any confusion. Employing this tactic has caused readmissions to decrease overall for all surgeries at the hospital.

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