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Study: Talking to patients can reduce hospital readmissions

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Jim Bang

Having nurses gather information from patients before they are released from the hospital may lower readmission rates.

That's the finding of a study that a St. Ambrose University economics professor worked on.

The study, "Effect of Implementing Discharge Readiness Assessment in Adult Medical-Surgical Units on 30-Day Return to Hospital," showed readmission to the hospital was reduced when nurses surveyed patients before release.

"Basically, they implemented a simple survey that nurses and patients both fill out, and did this for about 200,000 patients over almost a year and a half," said Dr. Jim Bang, professor of economics at St. Ambrose University. 

The study was conducted in 34 hospitals, 32 in the U.S. and 2 in Saudi Arabia, designated for nursing excellence by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Bang, who contributed data analysis and interpretation, said the study found when patients and nurses filled out the survey, the information helped guide nurses in how to prepare patients for discharge and reduced readmission rates by almost 2 percent at hospitals with a high readmission rate.

"About 2,500 fewer people had to go back to the hospital during the period that we sampled," Bang said.

Readmission is a national priority right now, Bang said, because Medicaid and Medicare regulations tie some funding to outcomes.

"So hospitals have a pretty strong interest in trying to keep their re-admissions below a certain threshold," Bang said, "so they can avoid some of these penalties that are levied by the Affordable Care Act and their Medicare reimbursements." 

The survey consists of eight questions divided into four parts, said Dr. Marianne Weiss, Marquette University professor of nursing, and principal researcher on the study. Patients were asked if they are physically ready to be discharged, have enough information about what to do at home, feel ready to take care of themselves and have enough support.

"Based on that information, the nurse can really then tailor (to) the patient," Weiss said. "And include the patient's perspective ... to feel more ready for discharge."

Weiss noted the hospitals in their study were known for their exemplary care.

"We do think that hospitals should consider implementing these tools," she said. "We want to look at it over a broad range of hospitals, not just magnet or exemplary hospitals, and see whether the effects are the same or different." 

Pediatric hospitals would be another area of interest, she said.


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