Healthcare News & Insights

2 strategies to cut down preventable admissions

Improving patient outcomes and avoiding unnecessary admissions could come down to a few simple steps. 

Doctor with Tablet and Senior PatientHealthcare leaders have been under a lot of pressure to keep patients healthy between visits to avoid preventable readmissions. Although progress is being made, data shows there’s still a lot to be done.

For example, Minnesota recently found there were $2 billion worth of visits during 2012 which could have been prevented by improved care coordination, better medication management and greater patient health literacy.

To help providers improve these areas and cut down on preventable visits and readmissions, two organizations have released guidance on health literacy and hand-washing compliance.

Bettering health literacy

Dr. Lauren Hersh, from the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, along with other doctors from the university, recently outlined the importance of improving health literacy in different healthcare settings in an article for American Family Physician.

Dr. Hersh pointed out that more people have limited health literacy than physicians realize — about one-third of U.S. adults according to national data.

This means they may have trouble understanding medication bottles, appointment slips, discharge instructions, medical and consent forms, insurance and medical bills or other health education resources.

For example: Most U.S. adults read at an eighth grade level, however, most health education materials are written at a high school or college reading level.

What’s more concerning is that patients often won’t speak up to their doctors when they feel like the information is going over their heads.

To address this pitfall, Dr. Hersh recommends hospitals and physicians take four steps to improve health literacy:

  1. Use universal health literacy precautions with patients across the board by avoiding medical jargon and breaking down information into more manageable action steps.
  2. Limit information to three key points or tasks for each patient visit.
  3. Use the teach-back method and have patients explain the information they received in their own words to evaluate their understanding.
  4. Simplify forms and offer assistance with filling them out.

Additionally, Dr. Hersh recommends organizations better utilize visual aids in written materials to improve patient understanding.

Taking a different approach to health literacy can help patients better manage their care outside of a doctor’s office, and reduce the number of readmissions and adverse outcomes due to poorly managed care.

Boosting hand-hygiene compliance

To address the issue of preventable visits and readmissions, hospital staff also need to take certain steps around the facility to prevent the spread of infections — namely, sticking to proper hand-hygiene regiments.

Although good hand-hygiene is one the most crucial steps to prevent hospital acquired infections, many hospitals’ staff fail to adhered to proper hand-hygiene, completely.

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology has released a new report which contains an eight-step strategy for improving hand-hygiene compliance.

The first key to a successful hand-hygiene program is consistent and visible leadership commitment, the report says. Some of the other recommendations from the guidance include:

  • routine monitoring and giving feedback about infection rates
  • creating a design and response team for hand-hygiene compliance with a diverse collection of members from different areas of the hospital and a senior administrator
  • providing ongoing education and training for staff, patients and visitors, possibly through instructive posters pocket cards or brochures
  • keeping hand-hygiene resources accessible throughout the facility, particularly in patient care corridors and the entrances to patients’ rooms, and
  • giving feedback and reminders, for example, through real-time feedback from observers, co-workers, patients and other visitors.

The main point the report drives home is that issues like hand-hygiene, and health literacy for that matter, need to be addressed routinely and kept top of mind among staff in order to reduce infections, improve care and cut down on the number of preventable visits.

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