Healthcare News & Insights

Prevent hospital readmissions in patients discharged to SNFs

Hospital patients aren’t always discharged to their homes. This is particularly true for older patients, who may be sent to skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) after a hospital stay. But these patients have a fairly high risk of being readmitted to the hospital.

86529245To keep residents of SNFs from being readmitted, hospitals should tweak their discharge process to better serve these patients.

Along with the standard instructions for post-discharge treatment, hospitals should give elderly patients who are headed to a SNF and their families detailed info about selecting a facility, according to an article recently published in the Annals of Long-Term Care.

In the past, hospitals have been wary of giving out too much info about SNFs. This was likely due to fear of running afoul of rules put into place by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) allowing patients to have free choice of SNFs after leaving a hospital. Hospitals may also want to avoid being accused of steering patients to affiliated facilities in violation of anti-kickback laws.

But according to the article, close to a quarter of patients sent to a SNF after hospital discharge are readmitted within 30 days. And with CMS coming down hard on hospitals with high readmissions rates, lowering that percentage is crucial.

One way to help improve these numbers is to ensure that elderly patients are placed in a skilled nursing facility that best meets their medical needs immediately after discharge.

What hospitals should do?

So what can hospitals do to help patients and their families make the best choice about which SNF is right for them?

  • Provide patients with impartial educational materials. To avoid legal scrutiny, hospitals can give patients general objective info about a SNF’s federal quality ratings, the physicians who work at the facility, and how close it is to the patient’s home. For further protection, all info can be reviewed by a legal team to make sure it’s aboveboard.
  • Get education about discussing care options with patients. All clinical staff should have an understanding of how to interpret quality ratings for SNFs. And other staff members can advise patients on their decision within their professional scope (example: social workers can discuss how families can pay for the patient’s stay in a SNF).
  • Start talking with patients early on. Even before a patient has been officially discharged, clinicians can initiate the conversation about choosing a facility that meets the person’s medical needs. Topics may include the purpose of a SNF in a patients’ recovery and the importance of making site visits to potential facilities. Staffers should also provide objective answers to patients’ questions about SNFs throughout the hospital stay.

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