Reducing hospital readmissions is a key goal of healthcare policymakers. Those readmissions that result from poor inpatient or outpatient care are specific targets, as eliminating them can not only lower healthcare costs but also drive improvements in care and patient satisfaction.
Although hospital readmissions are frequently considered a key indicator of the quality of care, they also speak volumes about the organisation and administration of hospitals, and of communication between medical providers and patients.
Securing transitions of the right kind
To reduce hospital readmissions, healthcare providers must master the transition process following patient discharge.
Indeed, one study of transitional care processes in the US found that healthcare providers that made use of more recommended care transition processes had lower readmission rates. It further noted that healthcare institutions with dedicated case managers working on transitions boasted significantly better outcomes.
Many healthcare providers are turning to admission, discharge, and transfer (ADT) data to improve the transition period. These real-time insights help providers understand what is happening to a patient when they are admitted to a hospital, discharged, or transferred from inpatient to outpatient care, giving providers the opportunity to provide interventions when and where they are needed.
Identifying risks involved with predictive analytics
Data has several important uses. Using data and predictive analytics can help healthcare providers identify risk factors for readmissions.
By analysing population health trends, hospitals can understand common risk factors for readmission and compare them against patient health records. In doing so, they can quickly identify individuals at risk of readmission and intervene appropriately.
Among these risk factors are specific diagnoses, co-morbidities, emotional and personal issues, mental health, age, medications, history of readmissions, financial issues and deficient living conditions.
Communication between hospital and patients is essential
At the heart of this is communication: hospitals should conduct follow-up calls with patients, not just to assess the patient’s condition, but also to ensure they are taking their medication. One study on hospitalisations in the US found that between 33 per cent and 69 per cent of admissions are attributed to medication non-adherence.
Communication between hospital and the patient may not even require a call. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania studied the use of an automated text message programme, finding a 41 per cent reduction in the odds of readmission within 30 days. The team even discovered that the text messaging programme had a higher rate of patient engagement than a post-discharge follow-up phone call, in addition to saving hospital staff time.
Ultimately, it is important that patients have their post-discharge instructions and responsibilities adequately explained to them. If communication is poor, patients may forget or misunderstand the direction they have been given, raising levels of risk and increasing the chance of readmissions.