Reducing Readmissions

According to a 2009 study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), one in five elderly patients is readmitted to the hospital 30 days after leaving, resulting in more than $17 billion in annual Medicare costs.

"Reducing avoidable hospital readmissions, then, represents a unique opportunity for policymakers, payers, and providers to reduce health care costs while increasing the quality of patient care," says Jenny Minott in her report for Academy Health, Reducing Hospital Readmissions. In fact, avoiding a return trip to the hospital has implications beyond better long-term patient outcomes. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as the Health Care Reform Act) aims to reduce hospital readmission rates for Medicare patients by implementing penalties against hospitals that fail to reduce high readmission rates.

Just how many readmissions can be prevented remains elusive. The lead author of the NEJM study said about 40 percent — nearly 1 million rehospitalizations annually — are avoidable. However, in a June 2007 report, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission said three-quarters of readmissions are "potentially preventable."

A Home Instead Senior Care® network survey of health care professionals engaged in discharge planning cited a number of goals and areas for improvement that could help patients better transition from hospital to home including:

Any and all avoided readmissions are beneficial for the patient, his/her care providers and medical facilities. Working with a returning home care program can fill the gaps in each person's plan of care that can help ensure a healthy recovery and avoid complications that can lead to readmission.