Healthcare organizations continue to refine and improve on their Heart Failure Readmission Reduction Process because reducing readmissions is a great concern for hospitals and most readmissions occur with heart failure patients. When it comes to heart failure, congestive heart failure is one of the highest-risk diagnoses for early hospital readmission. Patients who have been treated for heart failure or any other kind of heart disease are more likely to be readmitted. When it comes to heart failure, congestive heart failure is one of the highest-risk diagnoses for early hospital readmission fact, they constitute the largest percentage of readmissions. Below we discuss ways and steps that hospitals can take to reduce the number of readmissions.
Proper Patient Checks Before Discharge
Before a patient is discharged, doctors and nurses should check all their vital signs and ensure that they are stable and ready for discharge. This might seem obvious but a lot of times, a patient can be cleared for discharged up to 12 hours or even a day before they are actually discharged. In that time, there could be some new development in their condition or their health that will be missed if they are discharged causing them to be readmitted. In addition to this, studies have shown that patients discharged from the hospital that has at least one unstable vital sign are more likely to be readmitted than patients who are fully stable before discharge.
With the advancement of technology in healthcare and more advanced ways of approaching problems in healthcare, simple things like checking patients vitals still go a long way to reducing readmission. This is why the importance of the human factor in healthcare cannot be overemphasized. A simple checkup of a patient by a doctor or nurse before they are discharged will identify any issues with their vital signs which can then be attended to before they are discharged, thus effectively reducing or eliminating the possibility of readmission.
Rapid and Efficient Follow-up
Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up! The importance of patient follow-up post discharge cannot be overemphasized. So we already mentioned and discussed above that heart disease and heart failure patients are the group of patients with the highest risk of readmission. When a heart failure patient visits their doctor soon after discharge for a check-up, they are less likely to be hospitalized. Theis follow-up visit can be ensured and reinforced by phone calls, emails, and a strong emphasis on the patient to not miss their follow-up visit. The timing of follow-up also matters. It is advised that follow-up visits should be done within seven days of hospital discharge to be effective at reducing readmissions within 30 days.
Availability of Retail Pharmacy
When it comes to reducing readmission rates, there are so many factors that contribute to it and some of them are indirect actors like opening hours and availability of pharmacies especially in rural areas. Studies have shown that there is a direct relationship between the increase in open hours of outpatient pharmacies and a decrease in readmission rates. The study was carried out by Researchers from the Oregon Health and Sciences University College of Pharmacy. The conclusion was that: “Increasing patients’ access to pharmacy services can increase patient care and potentially reduce readmission rates,”. Put simply, if patients can have convenient and guaranteed access pharmacies to get their prescription medication and medication refills, they are less likely to be readmitted.
Availability of Occupational Therapy
Research has also shown that expanding the availability of occupational therapy services to newly discharged patients reduces the chances of them being readmitted. Basically, there’s a direct correlation between money spent on occupational therapy by hospitals and low readmission rates. And occupational therapy is the only outpatient statistics that showed a statistically significant correlation with readmission rates.
This is because occupational therapy focuses on patients social and functional needs after they’ve been discharged and this not only reduces the chance of them falling ill again but it speeds up their complete recovery post-discharge. A patients social and functional needs are important post admission because they could be the key to their wholesome recovery.
Some patients find it difficult re-entering into society after they’ve been hospitalized for so long, some find it hard to cope with taking their new medication, some have post-discharge depression or anxiety or depression, these kinds of problems and more can be tackled by occupational therapy administered after a patient has been discharged.
Socio-Economic Post-Discharge Interventions
If you’ve paid close attention to the points that lead to high readmission rates mentioned above, you’ll see that some of the issues are actually socio-economic in nature. Say the availability of pharmacies that are open at convenient hours and easily accessible is largely determined by socio-economic factors such as the neighborhood, the accessibility of transportation in the neighborhood, the average income level of the neighborhood etc.
Researchers has shown that many patients that are readmitted are readmitted due to issues such as lack of adequate social support for their post-discharge treatment plans or illnesses related to their injury or condition.Thus, the identification of the highest risk cohort for readmission can allow more targeted intervention for similar populations with socially challenged patients.
Little things like providing hospital funded transportation to bring key patients post-discharge to their first few check-ups could go a long way. Ensuring that the patients can access their medication, support groups, transportation to go to their check-ups and that their home conditions post-discharge is conducive to their continued recovery are all part of socio-economic post-discharge actions that can be put in place to help reduce hospital readmissions.