Too frequently, patients released from a hospital’s care find themselves returning to that same facility just a few days or weeks later. This is known all too well among administrators, doctors and nurses, as hospital readmissions have an immense impact on a facility’s overall financial and operational efficiency and effectiveness.
Thus, reducing hospital readmission rates is an important goal for any facility — and not just from the obvious perspective of improving the patient’s journey, but also for avoiding financial penalties and expenses from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP), implemented in 2012 by the CMS as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) began penalizing hospitals that experience “excess” readmissions as an effort to improve post-acute care. As of 2017, these penalties have been expanded to include Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) who also face penalties for hospital readmissions from the CMS.
What Causes Hospital Readmissions?
The reasons for hospital readmissions vary. Some patients have ongoing conditions or diseases that require multiple treatments and hospital visits to slow the rate of growth. Others can be readmitted due to oversight or lack of proper care either during their stay or post-discharge, preventing patients from successful transfer from hospital to home.
A high rate of hospital readmissions poses a problem for the healthcare system from both a monetary and patient health perspective. According to the Agency for Quality Health and Research, the average readmission cost of a patient receiving Medicare in 2013 was a whopping $13,800.
More importantly, from a patient health perspective, high patient readmission rates imply that the level of care initially given to each patient is lacking. Insufficient care and the trauma of being released and then readmitted plays heavily on patient health and psyche, negatively impacting patient wellness and recovery.
In 2009 alone, there were 44 million Medicare beneficiaries, or 15% of the total U.S. population. With the baby boomer generation easing into old age and retirement, this number is expected to surge, and the pool of patients affected by readmission penalties is likely to grow.
Government Acts to Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates
Given these numbers, it is clear why the government saw the need to implement the HRRP. By financially penalizing facilities with higher-than-average readmission rates, the program’s changes to hospital and facility reimbursement policy represent an effort to not only curb spending, but to instill operational efficiencies within the system.
By implementing these penalties, hospital readmissions rates have successfully fallen across the nation. But this has given rise to other serious questions: Are some hospitals purposefully not readmitting patients to avoid the penalties? And, if that’s true, could this program potentially lead to more fatalities?
Additionally, financial penalties may be a successful catalyst for reducing hospital readmission rates but ensuring a truly successful transition from the hospital to the home requires improving the patient care continuum at its core. For hospitals and SNFs alike, this is where continuous monitoring technology comes into play.
Preventing Hospital Readmissions with Continuous Patient Monitoring
Continuous monitoring systems give physicians, nurses and caregivers a full picture of a patient’s health. In doing so, it allows them to track patient health trends and vital signs from the moment they’re set up in bed until the moment they’re released.
These continuous patient monitoring devices, such as EarlySense’s Insight system, are designed to help in the early detection of patient deterioration, and to prevent the occurrence of adverse events, pressure ulcers, patient falls, and code blues.
By tracking motion, heart rate, and — the most important identifier — respiratory rate, the EarlySense Insight system helps doctors and nurses easily and instantly understand each patient’s health narrative in real time. This data gives them much more time to get ahead of adverse events.
This method has proven to be effective, so much so that in 2017 alone, EarlySense’s Insight system helped global medical institutions reduce hospital readmissions by 15%.
Kate Shepard, who uses EarlySense as Executive Director and Administrator of Reformed Church Home, a New Jersey based healthcare facility, writes that continuous monitoring has shown itself to be an “effective tool for reducing readmissions.”
She explains, “With this technology, we’ve seen a significant reduction in patient falls, especially in those first 24 hours, as well as a marked increase in documented cases where early prevention helped prevent readmission.”
Implementing a patient monitoring system to proactively reduce hospital readmissions gives leaders and administrators the means to avoid the CMS’ readmission penalty. More importantly, it provides doctors, nurses and caregivers a better way to safeguard their patients’ health — just as it gives everyone the chance to enjoy better outcomes.
Interested in learning how the EarlySense continuous monitoring system can help your facility avoid hospital readmission penalties and improve care?
Contact us today to schedule consultation with a patient safety specialist.