Readmission penalties can be very costly to hospitals. In fact, it was recently reported that more than 2,600 hospitals were fined for readmitting patients excessively within a month of initial discharge. Many of the fines were at the maximum amount that is allowed.
In fact, in 2013, Medicare spent $26 billion for two million readmitted patients and $17 billion was reported to be from possible avoidable readmissions. With more and more of these potentially preventable cases happening, hospitals need to consider ways they can identify how to stop patients from coming back to the hospital again and again.
Here are some possible ways for hospitals to reduce readmissions.
Option #1: Follow up.
One option that has been used is a Bluetooth-connected weight scale that checks in on patients after they have been diagnosed and treated with congestive heart failure. The simple process of taking the time to ask routine questions about patients’ overall state of health, including how they’re feeling after their hospital stay, and if they are following through on taking their prescriptions, had a very effective result – up to 44 percent reduction in readmissions.
Option #2: Automated phone calls.
This process is similar to the first option – instead of personal phone calls or a scale to check in on health status, automated phone calls can also help cut down hospital readmissions – sometimes by as much as half.
Option #3: Using prediction software.
Integrated readmission prediction software that was recently installed with the University of Pennsylvania Health System allows healthcare professionals to name and flag patients who are high risk for returning to the hospital on a recurring basis. The ability to predict the readmission trends in these patients and flag them allows doctors and medical case managers the opportunity to keep a closer eye on patients and follow up in more detail, all of which can help eliminate repeat admissions.
Option #4: Give patients access to technology to help manage their health.
Giving patients access to technology with the use of tablets, along with specific instructions on how to measure their blood sugar and how often to take their prescriptions can be effective in helping them take control of their health. However, this can be an expensive option for hospitals, as it can be costly to provide the technology to patients.
The alternative can be high Medicare fines. For this reason, many hospitals are choosing to give patients access to technology so they can reduce readmission rates. Statistics show that people who use tablets to manage their symptoms have a readmission rate as low as 8 percent, while other Medicare patients had a rate of nearly 28 percent.
Finding ways to reduce readmissions is a very necessary part of hospital practices today and getting creative on how to do that is a key part of growing and operating a strong, successful hospital without getting hit with hefty readmission penalties.