Reducing Hospital Readmission Rates

January 3, 2019 Jeanette Stern

After a patient has been released from the hospital, the last thing they want to see is another hospital gown. Unfortunately, hospital readmissions have become a common occurrence in the healthcare industry. There are many hurdles and challenges that clinicians face when it comes to reducing readmission rates. A patient transitioning from medical facility to home often has unaddressed needs and faces gaps in care.

Not only do hospital readmissions create unfavorable outcomes when it comes to patient experiences, but they can also become very costly. Under new Medicare value-based payment agreements, hospitals may forfeit millions of dollars in payments when readmission rates are higher than usual.  

High hospital readmissions can be avoided, but it is important to note some of the causes contributing to it in the first place. The differences in readmission rates can arise from multiple causes, including

  • Patients living in a community that does not have enough resources
  • Problems that require fundamental solutions
  • Not enough access to medical care on a consistent basis
  • Language and communication barriers
  • Poor relationships with healthcare workers

All of these factors can make a major difference. When healthcare institutions make communication and strengthening relationships a priority, hospital readmission rates can be greatly reduced over time. Here are some ways hospitals and other facilities can reduce readmissions. 


Tip 1: Improve the Transition

Before being released from the hospital, it is important a patient understands why they were admitted to the hospital and why they are receiving particular types of care and treatment. Interpreting medical terminology should be a part of the process, including during the time the patient is getting ready to be released from the hospital. Whether a patient is going home, or being transferred to a post-acute care facility, it should be someone’s job to make sure they fully understand their situation and what needs to happen next. 

Tip 2: Understand Knowledge Barriers

We mentioned earlier that one of the reasons for hospital readmission is the language barrier, but it is important to know that knowledge barriers also exist. Many patients do not have an in-depth knowledge of medical conditions and healthcare. Clinicians and staff should not make assumptions about how much a patient understands. Some patients will understand some of what is shared with them, but very few will understand it all, even information that healthcare professionals consider basic knowledge. Educational materials that are created should avoid using complex medical terminology and be prepared with a variety of learning styles in mind. 

Tip 3: Provide the Right Materials

When educational materials are being created, consider the knowledge and literacy levels of the patients being served. Educational materials may be translated into patients' preferred languages. Taking the necessary steps to communicate fully, including providing educational materials that are appropriate to a patient’s knowledge level, language, and culture, contributes to a patient being far more likely to comply with instructions and follow our recommendations.  

Many of the reasons for high readmission rates can be addressed with effective communication. What do you plan to do to reduce your facility’s readmission rates?  

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