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Seniors and Bounce Back Hospital Admissions

Jeff Anderson
By Jeff AndersonMarch 27, 2013
Woman at medical appointment

Nearly 1-in-5 seniors who are hospitalized return to the hospital within 30 days. When seniors are readmitted repeatedly for the same ailment, it may indicate a need for the kind of ongoing care and support available at assisted living communities.

One of the leading topics in healthcare today is reducing hospital readmission rates.  The National Institute of Health Care Reform’s report “Physician Visits After Hospital Discharge: Implications for Reducing Readmissions” found that the cost of hospital readmissions is $97 billion annually, $27 billion of which are Medicare expenditures according to Academy Health. Compounding the problem, discharged Medicare and Medicaid patients have higher bounce-back admission rates than those with other types of health insurance according to a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Reforms and Patient Education

A recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that despite the best efforts of caring and competent professionals, nearly 1-in-5 seniors admitted to the hospital return within 30 days. While initial thought was that increased readmissions are indicative of better care, research doesn’t bear this out.

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A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found no link between readmissions and improved health outcomes.

New rules passed as part of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aim to reduce the need for readmissions by charging additional fees to hospitals with excessive readmissions. Although it’s still early, this policy seems to have had an effect.

A recent New York Times article outlined the efforts of hospitals across the country that have seen success in reducing hospital readmissions by adopting changes to discharge planning including:

  • Identifying patients who are at highest risk of readmission
  • Follow-up nurse visits to patients’ homes
  • Proactively ordering patient prescriptions and scheduling follow-ups
  • Patient and caregiver education
  • Culturally specific diet tips
  • Transportation to for patient follow-up appointments
  • Increased monitoring of nursing home patients

Of these efforts, patient education is one the most important. Taking prescribed medicine properly is essential to preventing readmissions, but a recent study involving 377 seniors found that “81% of the patients either didn’t understand what all their prescriptions were for; were prescribed the wrong drug or the wrong dose; were taken off a drug they needed, or never picked up a new prescription.”

Efforts as simple as ensuring that seniors understand their medication regimen could go a long way in preventing readmissions and improving patient outcomes.

How A Place for Mom Can Help

In our 13 years of working with families, we’ve found that hospital readmissions for senior patients are indicative of a need for ongoing care and support – the type of support that assisted living communities or home care agencies can provide. For example, seniors who live alone or who do not have adequate support may have difficulty adhering to recommendations regarding self-care and medication administration. Transportation to follow up visits can also be an issue for seniors, particularly for those who don’t drive.

Seniors who live in assisted living communities receive a number of services that can help keep them healthy and out of the hospital:

  • A formalized care plan
  • Medication management
  • Ongoing monitoring of health and well-being vital signs
  • Transportation to scheduled medical appointments

If you are a professional who is working with a family who needs assistance in finding long term care options for a senior, we can help. Contact us for more information.

How did your family care for a loved one after a hospital readmission? Share your story with us in the comments below.

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