How to Properly Discharge Patients and Reduce Readmissions

Sep 29, 2017

doctors in a hallway

Medicare and Medicaid payments are routinely reduced when patients are readmitted, and CMS has been withholding hundreds of millions in payments over the years from hospitals who cannot keep their readmission rates low. Because of this, readmission rates are a growing concern for hospitals. Not only do returning patients often not need to come back to the hospital, they also siphon valuable time and resources from hospitals.

Studies have shown that patients on Medicaid are more likely to be susceptible to readmissions, causing a big push to educate patients on when it’s necessary to make a return trip to the hospital. How can your hospital keep its readmission rates low?

Don't Admit Needlessly

The University of California San Francisco released the results of a study last year that listed the major causes of readmissions. One of their top causes was hospitals admitting emergency room patients who didn't need to be hospitalized.

It is incumbent upon hospitals to reexamine their admission policies, especially those for admitting patients from their emergency departments. While many hospitals would rather err on the side of caution when it comes to admitting patients, it's crucial to understand that not all visitors require further treatment.

Provide Thorough Discharge Instructions and Communicate Effectively

Discharge is a crucial time for patients, and it can be one of the largest factors in preventing readmissions. Before patients are sent on their way, they are given a substantial amount of information that includes:

  • Post-treatment care

  • Warning signs for issues with their injury/illness

  • When and who to call in case of an emergency

  • What is a normal side effect of medication, treatment, etc.

This is a lot of information for patients to absorb, and the method of delivering it can be a large indicator of whether or not patients understand what has been explained to them. Studies have shown that poor communication is the reason for up to 25% of hospital readmissions, so take the time to explain everything clearly. Some other helpful and effective ways of getting discharge information across include:

  • Writing information down on patient whiteboards as you explain it.

  • Printing information out and providing it to patients upon discharge.

  • Allowing patients to ask questions and addressing any concerns they have before discharge.

Reduce Patient Anxiety by Thoroughly Addressing Patient Concerns

When patients are anxious about their condition or the care they have received, especially at the time of their discharge, they are often more likely to make a return to the hospital. Taking steps to reduce patient anxiety before, during and after their care is essential to reducing readmissions. Preoperative anxiety contributes to an increase in readmissions for postoperative patients, and studies have shown that anxiety can more than double the risk of readmission for patients.

Read more about the effects of patient anxiety, and how to prevent it, in our latest white paper.