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Lowering hospital readmissions

Created date

May 22nd, 2012
Matt Narrett, M.D., is chief medical officer for Erickson Living and directs the provision of medical care at all Erickson Living communities. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and is board certified in internal medicine and geriatrics. He is coauthor of Old Is the New Young, a guide to successful aging (available on Being in the hospital can be hazardous to your health. Along with the risk of infection or the occurrence of an adverse event because of a medical error, a recent study showed that older adults are at high risk of being readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. In fact, about 20% of Medicare beneficiaries have been readmitted to the hospital within one month of being discharged, and the diagnoses of congestive heart failure, pneumonia, and chronic lung disease put you at highest risk. Your chances of going back into the hospital are also higher if you ve been hospitalized several times or if you ve been there for an extended period of time.

It can be done

The good news is that at least some hospital readmissions can be prevented. At Erickson Living, we ve proven this. The 30-day hospital readmission rate among our residents has been 10% to 11% for the past three years, which is only about half the national average. It can be done. Preventive care measures are one way to tackle the problem. As I wrote in my column last month, something as simple as the pneumonia vaccine may keep you out of the hospital, but nationally only about 65% of older adults choose to get it. At Erickson Living, over 95% of our residents have chosen to receive the vaccine. Communication is also essential. But care coordination is often lacking when someone leaves the hospital crucial information may not be given to the patient or primary doctor. One way to keep this from happening is by using an electronic medical record that can facilitate communication between the hospital and doctor s office. Close follow-up care can also help you avoid a hospital readmission. Nursing home care is often a vital service, whether it s to manage your medications, check your vital signs, or administer medical treatments. Despite these services, however, about 30% of people receiving nursing home care will still be readmitted to the hospital. Once again, that may be partly due to poor communication. It is essential that the nurse who visits your home communicates regularly with your physician. The Affordable Care Act will provide incentives to hospitals and health networks for lowering readmission rates, which should spur the health care system to put better quality initiatives in place. While this will help, it is important to do your part after a hospitalization by participating in the discharge plan, keeping all doctors appointments, reviewing your medication regime, and immediately reporting any changes in your health to your doctor. Play an active role and you can be successful at preventing an unnecessary rehospitalization. In good health, Dr. Narrett