Reducing Readmissions Through Engagement Strategies

Various estimates put the annual cost of hospital readmissions in the tens of billions of dollars.  Many of the readmissions that occur in the U.S. each year are avoidable, and hospitals have been taking steps in recent years to reduce readmissions whenever possible.

Unfortunately, a lot of unnecessary financial burden still exists as a result of preventable readmissions. To combat readmissions and related costs, some healthcare professionals are turning their focus toward patient engagement. In fact, a recent survey shows that healthcare providers feel more communication is the key to better care, so they are increasing outreach and engagement efforts. This is positive news, because patient engagement offers several opportunities for improving clinical outcomes and reducing care costs.

The 30-day window after a patient has been discharged from the hospital is known for being a period of vulnerability. Half (50 percent) of the acute care professionals West surveyed said they believe that a lack of follow up by hospitals during this time is a leading factor that contributes to readmissions. Another 32 percent said that insufficient communication after discharge is at least partly to blame for readmissions.

 It is not just providers that feel inadequate communication is a problem. Patient feedback collected through Medicare’s HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) confirms that patients who have been hospitalized want to see more and better communication post-discharge, with half of patients saying they felt confused about some part of their care instructions after leaving the hospital.

Because many things can go wrong in the days and weeks after a patient has been discharged, medical professionals need to connect with patients in order to monitor their health and proactively address issues before they escalate into larger problems that cause patients to be readmitted.