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5 Ways to Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates

Written by Gregory Sanders, MD

Hospitalizations account for around one-third of the total $2 trillion in annual health spending in the United States.

It’s a staggering and unfortunately very real fact.

Most of the time, hospitalization is necessary.  However, a substantial fraction of all hospital admissions are costly, often avoidable hospital readmissions.

Whether you’re working in a hospital system that’s actively trying to reduce these rates, or you’re a practitioner who’s interested in keeping your patients happy and healthy, hospital readmissions is a crucial topic.

So how to reduce readmission rates in hospitals that are unnecessary? We’ve outlined five top strategies to reduce hospital readmissions and improve overall patient care – and healthcare spending.

Communicate Effectively. 

One of the most important factors behind readmissions seems relatively simple - communication.  Effective communication between physicians, practice managers, nurses and patients at the hospital and within your practice is crucial.  When treatment plans aren’t communicated properly to all the staff handling a patient and to that patient, problems ensue. The patient might not take their medication correctly. Staff might not spot a red flag in the patient’s behavior or failure to follow-up.

Always remember that communication doesn’t just end with discharge. Following up after the patient leaves can be vital to decreasing hospital readmissions.

Use Telemedicine. 

Remember how we said that communication after discharge is key? Well, telehealth is one of the great tools to reduce hospital readmissions and to help maintain that communication, without requiring much time and effort on the patient’s part.

With a live video telehealth platform (like eVisit), physicians can do quick follow-up visits online with patients, to see how they’re doing and answering any questions they may have. Other remote monitoring telehealth solutions can even help physicians watch a patient’s medical data remotely and intervene if they see a red flag.

Get the Whole Family Involved.

Reduce the possibility of readmission by involving the patient’s family, friends and social network.  Patients and those close to them will be more engaged and invested in their ongoing care plan.

Get to Know your Patients. 

Increase patient retention and outcomes by truly understanding your patients. Don’t just check their vital signs and move on. Ask them some personal questions about hobbies, lifestyle, family and more. Having this additional information about them can help you approach their care holistically, and improve their understanding of their condition.

Evaluate the patient’s ability to understand all of the health information you have explained. Do you think they’re ready to make informed health decisions on their own? Does it seem like they need a bit more support?  Each patient is unique, so try to approach patients at the individual level.

Streamline Discharge Planning to Reduce Readmission Rates.

Tools like HybridChart streamline the discharge process by providing an easy, flexible workflow already designed with the patient’s follow-up care in mind. This type of workflow allows providers to identify high-risk patients and customize their process so that all steps are taken care of.

Reducing your hospital readmissions rates is a big task – but one within reach! Focus on improving communication, the discharge planning process, and post-discharge care, and you’ll be on your way to reducing readmissions – and ultimately improving patient outcomes and avoiding costly penalties.

Published: June 2, 2016