Thursday, February 5, 2009

Inpatients: Save an average of $412

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality AHRQ) just released a study that found that "Patients who have a clear understanding of their after-hospital care instructions, including how to take their medicines and when to make follow-up appointments, are 30 percent less likely to be readmitted or visit the emergency department than patients who lack this information," and that "average of $412 lower for the patients who received complete information than for those who did not."

The study goes on to say "Despite the patient safety and cost benefits, a lack of financial incentives to implement a discharge program such as this poses a barrier to widespread adoption among hospitals, the study authors noted. However, the growing importance to hospitals of demonstrating their quality performance could spur added interest in this type of program."

The hospital compare report ( displays the percent of discharge instructions given to patients for one condition, heart failure. If it as important as the study above dictates, we should see in the near future this measure being evaluated across all diseases and conditions at Medicare participating hospitals.

And with a national rate of 71% for heart failure patients receiving discharge instructions, we have a long way to go before claiming victory on this measure. Six Sigma anyone?

Here are some tips to help you or your loved ones when being discharged from the hospital to avoid costly readmits and unnecessary confusion:

1. Ask as many questions as you have throughout your stay. Most nurses are eager to help you with any of your concerns. Be honest if you don’t understand, they are there to help you.

2. Questions about medical equipment, prescriptions, and follow-up care should not wait until you are discharged. Discharge planning begins day 1 for every admitted patient.

3. Don’t be afraid to take notes and write down answers to your questions. During hospital stays, patients tend to be medicated making it problematic to remember key directions for your recovery. This will assist you and your caregivers in your recovery.

4. Ask for written materials to help you remember specific instructions. Discharge Instruction sheets are typically diagnosis related and therefore a great resource to have post-discharge.

5. Make your follow-up appointment before discharge. Use the bedside phone and make the appointment immediately, no time like the present.

6. Ask what symptoms should trigger a visit to your physician, urgent care, and emergency department. Utilizing the appropriate care at the right time can save lives and money.

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