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How Solid, Comprehensive Healthcare IT Can Help Reduce Readmissions

Posted by Sue Ellen McKelvey on February 28, 2017

shutterstock_583226521.jpgHospital readmissions occur; some are unavoidable and others may be assisted more in their needs after their disharge to minimise the need for readmissions. How to avoid patient readmissions is a troublesome issue in healthcare review and development. With an ongoing shift towards value-based care delivery taking place in today's healthcare industry, efforts to find effective solutions for reducing readmission rates have a new level of urgency. Costs saved in less readmissions are doubled when greater levels of health and wellbeing following surgery are added to the quest for value based care. Among the more promising solutions that have emerged from these efforts is the recognition that more effective patient tracking, follow-up and engagement is part of the whole solution. Educating patients about 'what happens'at home after your discharge has always been in the care plan. This requires creating a more efficient care transition; and contact as a team focused on that individual patient's needs, between providers across the continuum of care. For many healthcare facilities and providers, improvements made in these processes can be largely attributed to the employment of solid, comprehensive Healthcare IT.

How Healthcare Technology Aids Readmissions Reduction Efforts

High rates of unplanned readmissions are widely considered to be indicators of care quality issues. From a review of exorbinant costs of care and the duplication of costs in this delivery process and the extra costs of unexpected illness or known side effects whilst insitutionalised. The less recognised impact of long illness and insitutionalisation is patient disempowerment. This does not assist the patient when suddenly at home managing themselves; poorer health outcomes than the system wants is the result. For this reason, all these factors incidents are getting a greater focus in recent years; the rise of the value-based healthcare model. Due to that increased focus, risk factors for avoidable readmissions are being assesed, many of these factors are related to what happens after each hospital discharge. Many hospitals, providers and healthcare systems have realized that building relationship with patients and keeping them motivated and involved in their very personal health journey after they go home is a step towards the right answer!

For instance, care transitions are often a weak link when it comes to care quality. Issues that increase risk for patients are typically related to poor communication between hospitals, patients and their outpatient care providers, often resulting in gaps in follow-up care. it is all about effective communication; poor patient understanding of discharge instructions and no effective follow up means their home based self-care efforts may be lacking. Many hospitals, providers and healthcare systems have started to address these issues with the aid of integrated, responsive healthcare IT systems.

When a system can rely on more efficient and comprehensive data collection and meaningful reporting tools, the ability to track patients throughout the continuum of care, from hospitalization to discharge to post-acute care and beyond is possible. Efficient, intuitive information sharing solutions and video conferencing capabilities can improve the interactive or 'real' flow of information as care responsibility shifts from hospitals to outside care providers and the patients themselves at home. These features work to help prevent patients from falling through the cracks of a busy system; using technology and keeping the patient in focus during the necessary follow-up care rather than only when they are in the hospital itself.

Healthcare IT can also be a platform that allows the patient to be the center of their self-care, which works to build more successful ongoing health outcomes and long-term behavioral change to keep them well and away from the passive care of a relapse and re-admission. Patient engagement solutions are key to that concept and can be employed throughout the continuum of care to aid in patient in the understanding of, compliance with and involvement in their own healthcare journey.

For example, patient education software ranks among the most effective of patient engagement solutions, helping to ensure that patients understand discharge instructions -- including self-care and self-monitoring instructions -- and the importance of adhering to follow-up care schedules. Access to other patient engagement solutions through use of patient portals during the follow-up care period can help patients keep track of health markers and progress via uploading of personal health files, improve their 'education' or self help health literacy via personalized patient education programs, manage appointments online, and answer feedback and outcomes questionnaires. All is then a line of two-way communication; more confidence to act more freely with clinicians and the care team online.

A robust communication tool within a comprehensive healthcare IT platform can increase ease and cost effectiveness across the care continuum. If an organisation can measure and monitor the improved quality delivered and perceived by the patient as well as show reports of accountable coordination and efficiency of the team care after discharge, this is a step towards reducing avoidable readmissions.

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Topics: Patient Engagement solutions

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