Preventing Patient Readmissions

Healthcare Training Resource
June 29, 2012 — 1,157 views  
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The discharge process at most hospitals across the United States is a relatively simple procedure. Patients not facing critical ailments are allowed to leave without registering an extensive amount of information, and only details about their treatment are recorded before they walk out the door.

However, medical professionals have recently become concerned with the overall rate of patient readmissions. If a person returns to a treatment center, then doctors and other medical professionals have not fulfilled their end of the bargain. Preventing readmissions can be difficult, but a few steps may be followed to lower the overall return rate.

After 30 days, 1 in 5 patients return to a hospital across the United States. These visits are expensive, and though hospitals are extraordinarily clean, patients have a higher risk of acquiring an infection here than anywhere else. Hospital and emergency room overcrowding is also a huge issue in the U.S., and a lower readmission rate could help solve these problems.

So how can nurses, physicians and other healthcare professionals limit patient readmission? The first step is to categorize patients into high-risk and low-risk groups. For example, a patient with chronic heart disease has a much greater chance of a heart attack than a first-time visitor complaining of chest pain. High-risk patients should be scrutinized carefully and informed about their ailment as thoroughly as possible. This way, they will not feel obligated to return to the hospital if a common symptom pops up.

Access to medicine and prescriptions is also a huge factor. Many patients do not leave a hospital with a filled prescription, and the delay before receiving medicine can result in further hospitalization.

"Even going 12 to 18 hours without their medication could already put them on a trajectory for readmission," said Bruce Nelson, director of community services at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, according to the Glendale News-Press.

Hospitals should consider storing a small amount of drugs in house to hold a patient over for at least 24 hours. This way, a person will have at least a day to make it to a local pharmacy.

Physicians should also conduct follow-up sessions with patients after they are discharged. A simple phone call can calm the nerves of a jittery person who is feeling ill, and can encourage them to remain at home as opposed to revisiting the hospital. An open line of communication is critical in any relationship, especially between doctors and patients.

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