Simple Steps to Reducing Hospital Readmission Rates That Few Are Doing

Jul 24, 2013

One in five Medicare patients are back in the hospital within 30 days after being discharged. A new study looks at simple measures hospitals can adopt to reduce readmission rates.

For an elderly patient, one hospital stay is hard enough, but having to come back due to complications can be devastating.

"Imagine how that feels for the family and for the patients themselves. It is demoralizing," said Elizabeth Bradley, the faculty director of the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute and leader of a new study on hospital readmission rates. The study identified six strategies that could significantly reduce repeat hospital stays.

"Connecting the hospital and partnering with local hospitals and physician groups and primary care physicians to reduce readmission rates. We also found hospitals that employ someone specifically to follow up on test results that come back after the patient is discharged, they do better," said Bradley. 

"Hospitals that are able to give a discharge summary directly to the primary care physician quickly, they do better."

Bradley says all of these measures are inexpensive to implement, and yet, only 7 percent of the 600 hospitals surveyed have integrated all six strategies.

It's estimated that hospital readmissions for the elderly cost taxpayers more than $15 billion a year.