Healthcare providers are in a constant state of improving their care capabilities in order to better treat those that seek their care. And contrary to popular beliefs, this transcends care that’s only administered while a patient is residing within a facility. Acute care and emergency treatment facilities alike strive to better educate patients before they get sick, empower their facilities with top-of-the-line tech such as medical all-in-one computers for when they’re in their care, and even ensure patients remain healthy after they’ve been discharged. This all ties into the healthcare sector’s focus on value-based care as we transition from simply charging patients based on the number of treatments given and instead value those treatments based on their lasting results. 

Of course, “results” can be rather prone to personal bias. What exactly constitutes “results” or “value”? Answering that question requires providers to keep track of certain metrics in order to better measure how well they’re helping patients recuperate from their conditions. One such popular metric they’ve taken up is Hospital Readmission Rates. 

What is a Hospital Readmission?

A “hospital readmission” is a case in which a patient who has been discharged from an acute care hospital is admitted again within a certain time frame. Readmission in this case can be to the same care facility or a different one so long as it occurs within that time frame. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) specifies this time frame as 30 days after the patient’s initial appointment, which is referred to as their “index admission”. 

The CMS even specifies that the reason for readmission does not need to be related to the reason for the patient’s index admission, elaborating that any kind of readmission within the 30 day period can be influenced by poor quality of care received or improper discharge of a patient during that initial appointment. Anything after those 30 days can be chalked up to poor outpatient care or individual health choices that are beyond the acute care hospital’s control. 

Why are Hospital Readmissions Bad?

It goes without saying that a readmission is a less than desirable outcome for patients and so hospital readmission rates should be lowered. The goal, after all, is to alleviate patients of their ailments the first time; But, what do increased hospital readmission rates mean for a facility trying to survive during a period where value-based care is the ideal?

To start, hospital readmissions are incredibly costly for hospitals. Not only do they require staff to spend more time on a patient who otherwise could have been effectively cared for in their index admission, more resources and supplies will also need to be allocated to this patient to help them recuperate once more. The US National Library of Medicine was able to touch on this point in their study where they concluded that a decrease in hospital readmission rates was heavily linked with an increase in operating revenue

Aside from the financial benefits, hospital readmission rates, if they aren’t already, are bound to be a key factor that determines whether or not patients will want to seek care from any given facility. 

As healthcare as a whole starts to move towards the healthcare consumerism model of operation, patients will become more privy to metrics such as price and hospital readmission rates. As such, high readmission rates will start to turn away future patients who will soon have more agency in which providers they choose to receive treatment from. Providers that want to take precautions against high readmission rates will want to understand the most common causes of patient readmission and take efforts to address them.

What are the Causes of High Hospital Readmission Rates?

More often than not, readmissions occur due to an improper discharging of a patient. If a patient is discharged before they’re adequately healed or stabilized, it won’t take very much at all for their state to suddenly worsen again and put them back in your care. “Discharge” in this case doesn’t always mean sending a patient home either. In cases where a patient is sent to a different facility that isn’t equipped to handle their treatment and sends them back, that responsibility also falls on the first facility and counts towards their readmission rate.  

Unfortunately, not all causes for readmission can be controlled by the facility. Sometimes pure bad luck or poor patient compliance to treatment recommendations can worsen a condition and send patients back to a hospital, adding to their readmission rate. 

Despite this, healthcare providers can’t simply rest on addressing readmission rates because some of it is left up to chance. Efforts still need to be made where they can to influence these numbers. 

How do You Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates?

Understand Which Patients are at Risk for Readmission 

Addressing readmission rates starts with understanding which conditions and ailments are commonly sending patients back for care. Even aside from readmission rates, understanding the patient populations and demographics your facility treats can be invaluable towards helping provide tailored care that’s effective the first time. 

Facilities that understand the most common ailments their patient populations suffer from can start to bring in more specialists and tech geared towards caring for those kinds of conditions. If you haven’t already, consider a population health management program. If done correctly, these strategies can give you valuable insights into your patient population and help you address the gaps in your capabilities with new equipment, staff, or clinical partners.

Educate Patients on How to Self-Treat After Discharge

There’s only so much you can do when it comes to making sure a patient follows through with post-visit care and therapy. And while physicians can’t control how patients treat themselves, they can at least do their best to educate patients on how they can self-care after a visit. Topics to focus on when educating a patient should include:

  • How their conditions are affecting their body. 
  • Why certain treatments/medicines/lifestyle changes are being administered.
  • What kinds of positive results a patient can look forward to if they maintain their treatment plan. 

Engaging a patient with their health in this way can motivate them to keep up with treatment plans and avoid rehospitalization and readmission. 

Bedside vesa mount tablets have remained a powerful patient engagement tool. The right models can have education modules downloaded on them that patients can use to learn about their condition and treatment options while they’re being cared for. These same modules can even be used to educate staff on how best to deliver post-discharge instructions so as to promote patients to follow them without confusion. 

Schedule Follow-Ups with Patients

If patients are regularly coming back with worsened symptoms within 30 days, you may need to implement a follow-up appointment policy. The goal of these policies is to eliminate reacting to flared up symptoms and instead get in front of conditions by making it mandatory for physicians to touch base with patients after a week or so.

Depending on the patient’s condition, follow-up appointments don’t always need to warrant in-person visits. Consider telehealth initiatives that allow your physicians to check up on patients through video calls or messaging. 

Many times, if caught early enough, developments in a patient’s condition can be addressed through minor treatment and lifestyle changes that can be implemented before symptoms worsen, causing patients to come back for another visit.  

Lowering Readmission Rates and Improving Care go Hand in Hand

The upside of addressing readmission rates go beyond simply saving money and bringing in more patients. By addressing these recurring visits, you’re drawing in those benefits while simultaneously improving your patients’ quality of life. For more information on the tech you can implement today that can set you on the path to attaining these benefits, contact an expert from Cybernet today.