Healthcare miscommunications contribute to a quarter of readmissions

Study: Hospitals must improve communication among patients and departments

Poor communication in healthcare settings has both a steep price tag for hospitals and a body count, and new research published in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that it's also to blame for a quarter of preventable readmissions.

Researchers from University of California, San Francisco, studied a cohort of 1,000 patients at 12 academic medical centers over a one-year period. During the course of the research, they analyzed hospital documents, interviewed doctors and patients, and conducted case review to better understand contributing factors for readmissions.

Among the 269 readmissions that the researchers deemed potentially preventable, several common factors emerged:

  • Failure to keep outpatient healthcare professionals in the loop on important information
  • Decisions about readmissions made at the emergency department level
  • Early discharge of patients discharging patients too early
  • Insufficient discussion of patients' care goals

These factors point to numerous processes hospital leaders must improve, including communication (both between healthcare teams and between healthcare workers and patients), stronger support for patients' self-management and more attention to patients' preparedness for discharge.

Research published last September shows the value of such improvements is more than theoretical. A study published in Management Science found hospitals that improve communications reduce rehospitalizations by 5 percent, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Just this February, a study indicated 30 percent of 23,000 medical malpractice claims involved communication errors. Despite these findings, other experts and advocacy groups, such as the American Hospital Association, have argued penalizing readmissions punishes some hospitals, particularly those serving low-income, high-risk patient populations for factors beyond their control.

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract

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