This is the fourth and final post in our series on reducing hospital readmissions.
With high readmission rates causing concerns—and steep financial penalties—for hospitals all over the country, medical professionals are seeking ways to reduce and prevent the number of hospital readmissions. What they are finding is that reducing readmissions requires a team effort from all hospital staff.
Our past articles focused on the roles nurses and pharmacists play in preventing readmissions, but hospital administrators also play a vital role by ensuring that technology is available that can enable smooth and incident-free patient discharges.
The Impact of Innovative Technology
Two out of three readmissions are due to poor or unclear discharge instructions, or complications or infection from the previous hospital stay. Implementing technology in the discharge process can help alleviate some challenges that lead to these readmissions.
Mission Health in North Carolina was able to decrease their readmission rates by 14% by having patients utilize a mobile application after discharge. The app, called Good to Go, gives patients individualized audio and video instructions to encourage good recovery practices.
Other apps which help reduce readmissions utilize technology to monitor patients’ conditions and increase communication among care teams. CareSage helps healthcare workers monitor their patients through wearable devices, so they can better predict the need for medical intervention. Another, pingmd, enables care teams to communicate and have access to the same patient information, such as admission and discharge details. They can also share images and videos for consults and referrals.
Helping the Transition Process
In addition to improving communication between patients and healthcare professionals, technology can be used to better connect hospitals with other healthcare providers. When patients are discharged from the hospital, their care and recovery is taken over by primary care providers or specialists. However, each of these providers is limited in the data that they receive from each other–preventing interoperability, raising costs, and heightening a patient’s risk for readmission.
A survey from the Ponemon Institute found that inefficient communication, on average, costs hospitals around $745,000 a year, and accounts for 80% of serious medical errors. Software platforms are now being developed to help streamline the data transfer process from provider to provider. With all caregivers documenting patient information in the same system, each provider can have a full view of the patient’s history. This ultimately prevents communication errors after transferring from the hospital to a specialist, reducing the chances that a mistake in care will be made.
Improving the Patient Experience
While it is important to ensure that communication lines between patients and healthcare providers stay open after discharge, one of the best safeguards against readmissions is making sure that patients have the best possible experience during their hospital stay. Although healthcare facilities do their best to provide quality care, the busy and bustling atmosphere of hospitals is not conducive to optimal healing.
Hospitals like Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and University of Michigan are leading the way in integrating technology to better the communication process and improve patient experience. By integrating software programs which connect caregivers to each other using direct communication systems and automated texts—rather than noisy overhead announcements or pagers—they help patients leave the hospital more rested–furthering their recovery.
The Facilitators of Change
Rick Skinner, CIO of the University of Virginia Health System, states in a special report that “the trend of using [health technology] to stop readmissions will only increase.” With the benefits of technology to reduce hospital readmissions becoming increasingly apparent, more hospitals are employing this resource.
Still, someone is needed to ensure that these new technologies are being implemented. The hospital administrator’s role is to create and implement policies that facilitate high-quality patient care—and that includes ensuring that technological equipment is up-to-date. They are the ones who can see the need, submit the requests, and find the budget to make things happen.
Although budget constraints can make it difficult to update all technological equipment, and better technology alone does not guarantee that a patient will not be readmitted to a hospital, Skinner asserts that “it is only through technology and communication with patients that readmissions can be addressed and prevented.”