How telehealth can enable declines in readmission rates

Solutions that facilitate communication between patients and providers can help reduce the number of patients that need to return to hospitals for care.

High readmission rates are a $17 billion problem across the U.S. for hospital administrators. What’s even more alarming is that a portion of 30-day readmissions are preventable.

According to a recent University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 27 percent of readmissions could be avoided. This study shows that hospitals must improve communications between patients, physicians, hospitals and primary care providers, while providing better post-discharge resources.

Upon discharge, if a patient is readmitted within 30 days, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requires payment from the hospital because of the guidelines of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which penalizes preventable readmissions. However, the burden of keeping abreast of each patient’s unique recovery isn’t an easy task for both providers and hospitals.

Imagine that, as a patient, you are sent home from the hospital with a stack of discharge papers. Are you more likely to read every sheet carefully or to put those information sheets in a corner, never to be looked at again?

Solutions to the readmissions problem are emerging in today’s market, and they are designed to support the management and monitoring of every patient’s unique recovery during their most critical time post-discharge from the hospital—the first 30 days. By offering a workflow that aligns with the patient’s recovery period, such solutions automate follow-up reminders, connecting patients and providers over a secure video call, and enable patients to get answers to their questions.

Now, imagine the patient with the stack of post-discharge instructions. Instead, these emerging solutions have the ability to send a text or email at discharge with a link to join a video conference. The patient simply clicks the link and the automatic video call distribution will identify the next available provider for a telehealth follow-up via computer, tablet or smartphone. New telehealth developments can even send reminders to the patient until they participate in a follow-up call and through this continuous follow-up, ensuring reduced readmission rates which help both the patient and provider alike.

According to a 2016 Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) survey, connected health tools (mobile and wireless devices) are changing patient care delivery. The survey also found:

67 percent of healthcare organizations utilized multiple connected health technology solutions.
58 percent used mobile optimized patient portals as an important patient engagement tool in their connected health strategy.
47 percent stated that they expect to add additional connected health technologies to their platform.

It is great news for patients and providers that telehealth and connected health tools are growing and will continue to do so while supporting hospitals in meeting CMS guidelines and preventing 30-day readmissions.

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