Reducing Readmissions: Top Priority
The financial challenges of unplanned readmissions are nothing new, but increased regulatory pressures and penalties stemming from the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) ensure that hospital decision makers don’t need reminding to make readmission prevention a top priority.
Today’s healthcare executives are also well aware of the much-covered financial numbers from 2014’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) report: between January and November 2011, treatment costs associated with patients returning to medical centers within 30 days added up to more than $41 billion.
In the last few years, many methods focused on reducing readmissions have been tried. Many show documented success — from the strengthening of relationships with home nursing specialists to investment in robust self-treatment strategies to the formation of readmission-prevention collaboratives among healthcare organizations.
Technology Solutions are Vital
Among these strategies, however, it’s increasingly apparent that technology can’t be ignored in any holistic readmission plan, and the ability to understand and evaluate technology’s evolving potential will be a key requirement for tomorrow’s healthcare executives.
In healthcare, technology is no longer relegated to IT,” says Susan Heath, former senior vice president and chief nursing officer of Seattle Children’s Hospital. “Today, executives need to be able to speak intelligently about technology in all areas, including readmission prevention.”
It’s becoming crucial for healthcare decision makers to properly discern between what’s needed, what works and what’s realistic for their organizations.
Consider, for example, that the ability to identify and track patients at high risk for readmission — a data analytics exercise — is becoming a prerequisite for deploying any readmittance solution. This is because knowing whom to focus on helps hospital administrators plot an efficient course.
Mobile and Wearable Products
For those aspiring to the highest healthcare positions this means the ability to understand the differences among complex technology alternatives.
For example, there’s the solution that uses internal electronic health records (or EHR) data to do readmission risk profiling. This approach taps EHR data to trigger a pre-set transition care plan over the 30-day period. Alternatively, there are third-party solutions, such as Care at Hand, which employs mobile patient surveys to identify at-risk patients and then alerts senior nursing staff to intervene when needed.
Technology-based patient education, prior to discharge, is also becoming an arrow in the readmission-reduction quiver, as studies show that patients who understand their post-hospital care instructions are less likely to return.
This is one reason why investments in mobile solutions are becoming more common. Vocera’s Good to Go app, for example, allows nursing staff to record live discharge instructions on phones and tablets, provide teaching sessions at the patient’s bedside and equip patients with photos and videos. This and similar solutions are being increasingly deployed.
Then there’s technology’s growing digital role in the post-discharge phase as a way to engage patients in their own care during those 30 days and beyond — especially as telemonitoring becomes more sophisticated.
CareSage, for example, is a predictive analytics engine that allows health organizations to use wearable devices and remote monitoring to provide better care for those patients, such as elderly Medicare patients, at risk of readmission.
Pilot programs also abound, such as the Arizona Care Network’s deployment of sensor-equipped inhalers to Medicare patients. The inhalers can detect signs of a pulmonary attack before it happens and allow providers to reach out and provide remote guidance.
Each of these examples is indicative of a rapidly expanding tech-product market aimed at readmission prevention. This is why it’s becoming crucial for healthcare decision makers to properly discern between what’s needed, what works and what’s realistic for their organizations’ internal culture and the demographics of the communities they serve.
If issues such as reducing readmissions are of interest to you, you may want to consider pursuing a degree in healthcare administration.
Reducing Hospital Readmissions: A succinct overview of the role data analytics can play in unplanned readmission prevention.
Conditions with the Largest Number of Adult Hospital Readmissions by Payer, 2011: The financial impact of readmissions, summarized by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in 2014.
Reducing Readmissions — Top Ways Information Technology Can Help: IT-focused thoughts from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.