Strategies to Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates

Hospital Readmission Rates

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) scrutinizes hospital readmission rates across the U.S. each year, and it levies financial penalties on organizations that overshoot acceptable hospital readmission rates. As healthcare systems across the country embark on a journey to introduce patient-centric models to their organizations, they must align their resources with ever-changing regulations for them to thrive. 

In this post, we’ll uncover strategies to minimize hospital readmission rates and avoid financial liabilities from penalties. This post also focuses on collaboration-driven communication and how it reduces hospital readmission rates.

Reasons Why Hospitals Run Into Readmission Risks

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), chemotherapy continues to be the leading cause of readmissions within 30 days of discharge. This is closely followed by mood disorders and medical or surgical complications. While some readmissions cannot be avoided, care teams can identify and assess the root cause of avoidable readmissions. Identifying a root cause can lead to better readmission management, and ideally, a reduction in hospital readmissions.

Inpatients often speak to many providers across the entire care continuum and patient journey. This creates a complex web of communication, and it builds information silos that can increase the patient’s vulnerability to adverse events. Readmissions emerging from poor care transitions, medical errors or subpar patient discharge plans, are far too common to ignore, creating a strong case to solve them.

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What’s the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program?

As stated by the CMS, “The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) is a Medicare value-based purchasing program that encourages hospitals to improve communication and care coordination to … reduce avoidable readmissions.” The program requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reduce payments to hospitals that fail to control readmission rates. The goal of the program is to improve healthcare across the country by aligning payments with quality patient outcomes. 

Proven Strategies Hospitals Can Use Reduce Readmissions

To further the effort in reducing avoidable readmission risks, hospitals must evaluate the following options:

  • Use of electronic health records (EHRs): An EHR system provides a unified view into patients’ health records across the care continuum, and it helps clinical teams make more informed care decisions. Evidence-based research suggests that hospitals that include EHR in their workflows can achieve lower hospital readmission rates and shorter length of stay for patients. 
  • Involving caregivers and patients in care plans: Organizations can relieve understaffed care teams from certain tasks by including patients and their caregivers in the acute care setting. Proper training on post-discharge caregiving and written care plans and educational resources have proven to enhance outcomes and reduce hospital readmission rates.
  • Post-discharge follow-ups: Hospital readmissions are more likely to happen within the first few days following the patient’s discharge. While some readmissions are unavoidable, others can be easily avoided by following effective, proper procedures. For instance, hospitals can establish routine follow-up, post-discharge calls with patients to identify and mitigate readmission risk factors. These check-ins help hospitals reduce readmission risks and save thousands of dollars in costs from Medicare penalties.   
  • Remote access to care teams: As mentioned, patients are more likely to develop serious health conditions within the first few days following discharge. Most cases can be prevented by giving patients access to care teams outside of the healthcare setting. Advanced technologies, such as dedicated lines and live calls, can facilitate instant access to care teams. With live call routing, patients have an expedited channel for emergency communication with their clinicians.
  • Collaborative clinical communication platforms: Fragmented care team communication hinders the responsiveness of clinicians and results in poor patient outcomes. Teams can adopt advanced communication systems to unify fragmented, siloed communication in hospitals and reduce readmission risks. These automated communication systems can minimize errors and inefficiencies in communication workflows. 

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How OnPage Helps Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates

OnPage’s HIPAA-secure clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) platform eliminates fragmented team communications. The automated, collaboration-centered communication platform consolidates crucial information from disparate health systems, such as EHR and EMR software, and makes the data fully accessible to the right providers. Teams with comprehensive views into patient-related information are more likely to make decisions that have positive outcomes. 

Key Takeaway

Poor clinical communication results in slow, suboptimal care that increases the likelihood of patient readmissions. Excess readmissions are even more difficult to manage for under-resourced hospitals and overworked care teams. As a solution, hospitals must invest in advanced, secure communication technology to improve team collaboration and save money associated with readmissions.

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