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Four Ways Hospitals Can Reduce Patient Readmissions

Gallup report offers cost-cutting strategies

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) define readmissions as hospitalizations that occur within 30 days of discharge. Although not all readmissions are preventable, high readmission rates are considered an indicator of inadequate quality of care or poor coordination of post-discharge care.

Using a research-based approach, Gallup has identified four factors that influence readmissions. By following best practices in these areas, hospitals can reduce readmission rates and increase clinical excellence, according to the report.

Step 1: Involve the patient's social network, family, and friends

When patients and the people in their social support system are highly engaged in the ongoing care plan, hospitals can maximize compliance and reduce the likelihood of readmission, Gallup says. The following practices can foster engagement among individuals in the patient's social network:

  • Encourage members of the patient's support system to be present when members of the hospital staff provide discharge instructions.
  • Make sure family and friends thoroughly understand the patient’s care needs, such as medications, wound hygiene, and follow-up visits.
  • Establish responsibility and accountability for the patient’s care plan, sharing ownership for ongoing patient needs.

Hospitals can also improve compliance by accommodating patients who lack a strong social support network, the report says. For these patients, hospitals should address ongoing care concerns during discharge, such as arranging transportation to and from follow-up appointments or coordinating home support.

Step 2: Use an effective discharge process

The report notes that an effective discharge process is crucial for ensuring patient compliance with his or her care plan. The following practices can streamline the discharge process and improve patient education:

  • Encourage effective communication between physicians and nurses when they are coordinating a patient's discharge.
  • Prioritize and organize discharge instructions to improve clarity and emphasize the most crucial information.
  • Create and improve alignment with other providers, such as home health, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities. This is especially important for high-risk patients, when the potential for readmission may be high.

Step 3: Get to know your patients

According to Gallup, when hospital staff members are attentive and purposeful — not just checking a patient's vital signs, but getting to know the patient — they can learn how to improve patient understanding and simplify patient education. The following practices can increase the patient’s retention of the care plan:

  • Assess the patient's ability to understand basic health information and to make informed health decisions.
  • Determine the best ways to provide health information. Patients will have different degrees of technological literacy, so health care provides should implement methods that meet patients at their level.

Step 4: Build the right discharge team

Successfully navigating patients through discharge is a difficult task that requires a unique skill set. Gallup recommends that health care institutions hire based on talent, recruiting nurses who possess the innate talents for assisting patients through the transition to post-discharge care.

Gallup’s research shows that organizations that identify and select people whose talents are similar to those of top performers in that role experience many benefits, including reduced turnover, higher productivity, and increased safety.

Source: Gallup; July 2, 2014.

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