Station nurses, home healthcare workers in hospitals to cut readmissions

A nurse with patient.

Home healthcare and even visiting nurse agencies can play a role in cutting hospital admissions by stationing their employees in emergency rooms.

That has been a successful strategy undertaken by the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, according to Marki Flannery, its executive vice president and chief of provider operations.

In an opinion piece in the Huffington Post, Flannery noted that many hospitals have approached her organization to place personnel in their ERs. “This collaboration has been accelerated by today’s increasing focus on the quality of patient outcomes, as well as by new regulations implemented by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other healthcare legislation,” she wrote.

Flannery added that financial reforms such as bundled payments make it critical for hospitals to try and cut down on readmissions--hence the collaborations. As a matter of fact, her organization has created the position of “clinical liaison” to ensure that lines of communications between hospitals and other providers remain clear, and prior inpatients and those with chronic conditions are kept out of acute care settings. It has also added physical therapists to its staff to improve outcomes and cut readmissions for orthopedic surgical patients.

Readmissions have hit hospitals hard in recent years, particularly as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has rolled out a program to financially penalize hospitals for readmissions for certain patients. More than 2,500 hospitals have been penalized for excessive readmissions this year, with CMS withholding about $500 million in payments. Patients at high risk for readmission include those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, or those who live in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Children are also at risk as well: research indicates nearly a third of pediatric readmissions are avoidable.