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Reduce Hospital Readmissions AND Labor Costs? How It’s Possible


Efforts to meet the standards set by the CMS Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program come in plenty of shapes and sizes. Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare, for example, suggests, “The effective transfer of patient care information is essential to a patient’s continuity of care whether conveyed in written documents, verbally, or electronically.”

A coalition of healthcare providers in a seven county area around Albany, New York tackled that issue head-on — first by scanning for communication gaps that increased the risk of preventable readmissions and then by putting measures in place, like the use of standardized transfer-of-information forms and cross-setting clinician reporting.

“Hospital readmissions have become a
watershed issue for health providers because of the increasingly important impact they have on a hospital’s financial position.”

But that’s not the only approach, as the transfer of information needs to flow smoothly between healthcare providers and patients too. From telehealth tools to wearable monitors and even home visits by clinicians, many hospitals have implemented innovative strategies to reduce hospital admission rates. One common complaint, however, is that a more hands-on approach to communicating about and with patients drives staffing costs up — just when hospitals face increased pressure to bring costs down.

Making Post-discharge Follow-Up Effective—for Patients and Hospital Budgets

Writing on the Revenue Cycle News blog, MiraMed Global Healthcare Services Vice President Phil Solomon notes that “Hospital readmissions have become a watershed issue for health providers because of the increasingly important impact they have on a hospital’s financial position.”

Fortunately, he points out that there are tools, such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) national database for hospital readmissions, that empower hospitals to benchmark their progress against similar healthcare organizations. According to a survey cited by Solomon, hospitals are also implementing similar strategies:

  • 92 percent use a formal medication reconciliation process
  • 87 percent boosted patient and caregiver education efforts including better pre-discharge instructions
  • 84 percent conduct phone calls or other post-discharge communication to patients 

The problem? Taking a more proactive approach puts additional stress on overworked staff or requires the hiring of additional full-time nurses — and that strains hospital budgets.

How Technology Can Help Reduce Readmissions and Labor Costs Simultaneously

One way that hospitals can address both issues is through the use of an automated patient engagement platform that enables hospitals to connect with patients more effectively by speaking to their specific attitudes and motivations when it comes to health and wellness. The psychographic segmentation model used by PatientBond does exactly that with positive results. For instance, in a current pilot program with a respected New England hospital system, PatientBond is helping to lower readmissions for spine surgery that had hovered at 6 percent for years.

leaving_hospital.jpgPrior to implementing the automated solution, three department nurses worked full time to follow up with patients over a 40-day process to monitor their recovery. Not only was this process an inefficient use of limited staff resources, but it also failed to move the needle further on the readmission rate. The department was actually considering hiring another full-time nurse to support their efforts.

With PatientBond, the hospital was able to put a personalized patient engagement workflow in place that reduced readmissions for spine surgery to less than one percent while also cutting the time nurses spent on administering post-discharge follow-up by 75 percent. What’s more, the department had no need for adding to its staff; instead, it freed up two nurses to focus on patients in the hospital. The advantages add up — for every $1 spent on the pilot program, the hospital systems has realized a $20 savings.

The department had no need for adding to its staff; instead, it freed up two nurses to focus
on patients in the hospital.

What makes it so effective? In addition to tailoring communications (i.e., emails, text messages, Interactive Voice Response) based on patients’ psychographic segments, timed communications pre-admission and post-discharge also include easy-to-use response mechanisms, such as a link in an email to confirm understanding of educational materials, or a short survey about their recovery status. Patient responses are pushed to a single dashboard, allowing the hospital to spot potential readmission risks and focus on those exceptions for more efficient use of staff resources. Imagine putting this type of effective patient engagement initiative into action for the conditions covered by the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program. PB_favicon.ico 


Brent Walker will be be speaking on a panel about trends and opportunities in healthcare consumerism at the BRG Healthcare Leadership Conference, taking place Dec. 12-14 in Washington, D.C. Click here for more information.

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