Reducing Readmissions by Improving Clinical Communications – Part Five

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Hospitals have many opportunities throughout a patient’s healthcare journey to reduce the chance of readmission. One commonly cited way to reduce readmissions is by improving patient education around managing their care after discharge.

Using Calls to Reduce Readmissions

Specifically, implementing a post-discharge phone call to review medication regimens and treatment plans, discuss symptoms and other concerns, and check in on home health services and follow-up appointments has been shown to help reduce readmission rates.

A paper published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2001 found that when pharmacists called patients 2 days after discharge to review whether they had obtained and understood how to take their medications, patients were much less likely to visit the emergency department within 30 days of discharge. Ten percent of those who received a phone call from a pharmacist went to the ED, compared to 24% of patients who did not receive a call.

In another program, IPC The Hospitalist Company (IPC) tested the effect of post-discharge call center outreach on readmission rates. Nurses at the IPC call center called 350,000 discharged patients from October 2010 through September 2011. During the calls, nurses talked through each patient’s symptoms, medications, home health services, and follow-up appointments. The nurses answered patient questions about discharge instructions and, if the patient had a serious medical need, contacted the patient’s hospitalist or primary care physician.

Nurses successfully reached 30% of patients, and it was estimated that the program prevented 1,782 avoidable readmissions over the course of a year.

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