Healthcare News & Insights

3 unique ways to prevent readmissions

86538785Hospitals must start thinking differently if they want to prevent patient readmissions and avoid the financial penalties that ensue.

Here are three successful strategies facilities can try to lower their patient readmissions rates:

1. Crunching the numbers

A hospital can’t know which areas it needs to focus on to cut readmissions if it doesn’t have concrete data showing where improvement is needed. So it’s important to develop a system that easily tracks the specifics of patients’ conditions and follows their progress toward recovery.

One large medical practice in Texas set up its own data analysis system for its accountable care organization, as described in an article in Forbes magazine. By tweaking its electronic health records system (EHR) with specific algorithms to identify issues in patient care, the practice cut readmissions by 23% in its first year of tracking this data.

The system looked at factors as simple as patients’ vital signs and as complex as whether they were seeing a primary care provider for follow-up care in the week immediately following their discharge, since this decreases the likelihood of hospital readmission. Because the practice could pinpoint these statistics, staff could target patients for interventions before any problems affected their conditions.

Here, it’s key to work with EHR vendors and your IT pros to set up a system that tracks readmissions data in a detailed manner. This’ll help you pinpoint the issues that most affect patients’ recovery so you can come up with a plan to address them specifically.

2. Using mobile-based health care

When patients are discharged, not only can hospitals direct them to primary care providers and specialists in their area, they may also consider providing patients with resources for receiving mobile based health care. This could come from several sources, including EMS providers and home healthcare agencies.

With mobile-based healthcare, health services come to patients, which is helpful in cases where patients are too ill to leave their homes, or if they don’t have access to reliable transportation. Providers visit the patients, check in on their recovery, and see if there’s anything they can do to make it smoother and faster.

In particular, EMS professionals could be a good resource for providing mobile-based health care to patients, particularly those who lack all the resources needed to keep them well.

Per an article from EMS 1, hospitals can pair with EMS providers to:

  • give patients better continuity of care in their communities
  • provide post-discharge follow-up visits to patients’ homes
  • refer patients to other providers for care, and
  • help patients navigate the complexities of the healthcare system.

Partnering with EMS to deliver these services works because they’re often the first point of contact for a patient before being admitted to the hospital.

People who don’t have transportation may call for an ambulance to bring them in. When EMS arrives, trained workers can do an assessment of the patient’s condition and determine if a hospital trip is the person’s best bet, or if they’d be better off going somewhere else for an evaluation, like a clinic. This can prevent unnecessary hospital visits, but still address patients’ healthcare needs.

3. Collaborating for palliative care

When hospital patients are nearing the end of their lives, a shift to a more palliative approach to care — where the focus is on keeping the patient comfortable and stable — is needed.

In this situation, using a collaborative model to provide patient care can cut down on any unnecessary readmissions for conditions unrelated to the patient’s primary illness, according to an article in Oncology Nurse Advisor.

The model paired medical oncologists and palliative care physicians as a team to provide cancer treatment for patients at Duke University Hospital. Clinicians met several times a day to talk about the best methods for delivering care to each patient. Palliative care was presented as an option early on in patients’ treatment, rather than when patients’ conditions grew life-threatening.

After a few years of using the model, the hospital reported a 23% decrease in readmissions within a week of discharge. The length of patient stays also dropped by an average of eight hours, and fewer patients were transferred to the ICU during their stay.

This demonstrates the importance of knowing when to broach the topic of palliative care with very ill or medically fragile patients. Starting the process early not only prevents unnecessary patient suffering, it can also lower readmissions rates.

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