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4 Strategies to Reduce Hospital Readmissions in Elderly Patients

Once patients are discharged from the hospital, they envision spending their days recuperating and recovering at home until they get better. Unfortunately, for many elderly patients, that doesn't happen.

The Shocking Rate of Hospital Readmissions in the Elderly

In a 2015 report published by the American Hospital Association, it was estimated that there was an approximate 17.5 percent hospital readmission rate for patients, most of whom were elderly. Readmission was classified as patients who either had to return to the same hospital or a different hospital for readmission.

Hospital readmission for elderly patients is not only stressful, but it can also take a huge toll on a patient's overall health. The more time a patient is in a hospital, the more likely they are to develop serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses such as hospital acquired pneumonia and C.diff.

Taking steps to reduce hospital readmissions in the elderly is essential. Not only does it protect your hospital from potential Medicare fines, but it helps keep some of the most vulnerable members of the community – the elderly – healthy.

The following are some strategies that can reduce hospital readmissions and are fairly easily to incorporate into your day-to-day hospital operations.

Strategy #1: Form Partnerships with Local Hospitals and Providers

Forming partnerships with local hospitals and other providers helps make the recovery process easier for elderly patients. When they’re discharged from the hospital, they’re able to quickly and effortlessly find physicians, home healthcare teams, and hospitals that not only will provide quality treatment, but that have access to all previous medical records and valuable information.

Strategy #2: Give Clear Cut Discharge Directions to Elderly Patients

Elderly patients can easily become overwhelmed when given a discharge packet from the hospital that is up to 50 pages long. Try to keep discharge instructions easy to read and straightforward.

Break up the discharge papers into sections with easy-to-understand headings. Use font that is no less than 12 point type for elderly patients. Color combination of font and background is also an important consideration for patients with eyesight challenges.  The following chart shows these color combinations from best to worst:

This allows patients to quickly and easily find the information they need, such as what medications to take or when to schedule a follow-up appointment.

Strategy #3: Schedule Follow-Up Appointments with Primary Care Physicians and Specialists Before Discharge

Forgetting to schedule follow-up appointments or initial appointments with specialists can lead to hospital readmissions in the elderly. Before discharging a patient from the hospital, work with them to get them scheduled for a follow-up appointment or an initial appointment with a specialist. Patients, especially the elderly, will be more likely to follow through and get the healthcare they need to avoid being readmitted to the hospital if the appointments are already made for them.

If you’re unable to make an appointment while the patient is in the hospital, make sure you give the patient a set timeline for when they need to make the appointments. A set time line will prevent the patient from procrastinating to schedule the appointment.

Strategy # 4: Create an Effective Communication System That Keeps Patients Engaged After Discharge

Just because a patient is discharged from the hospital doesn't mean you can forget about them. Patients will still need detailed follow-up that includes instructions for post-hospital care, outlines of any necessary tests that need to be performed and details on when to schedule any appointments with specialists or a primary care physician.

Using an automated patient engagement software program, like PatientBond, can help reduce hospital readmissions in the elderly. This automated patient communications platform, which uses psychographic segmentation to personalize messaging according to each patient’s personality, health motivations and communication preferences, helps track a patient's recovery, helps patients avoid missed appointments by providing regular reminders, and gives healthcare and clinical staff an easy way to communicate with patients who may be struggling with recovery or who have questions.

Hospitals may be reluctant to use automated patient engagement software programs because of the concern that elderly patients might not be tech-savvy. Fortunately, with programs like PatientBond, hospitals can personalize their approach to healthcare communication. PatientBond creates a psychographic profile for each patient and uses that to determine how the patient will approach their healthcare, as well as how they prefer to communicate — via email, text or phone — with their healthcare team.

Remember Not All Hospital Readmissions are Preventable

It’s important to understand that even when incorporating these strategies into your day-to-day healthcare practice, some hospital readmissions are unavoidable. Sometimes a patient needs to be hospitalized for an unrelated condition or be readmitted for planned care related to the initial reason for admission. But using these strategies can help dramatically reduce many preventable, unnecessary and avoidable hospital readmissions in the elderly.

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