Hospitals aim to slash the 4.4M preventable readmissions

Four million and four hundred thousand preventable readmissions happen each year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). It's a daunting number matched with even higher costs. The preventable readmissions tally up a bill of $30 billion each year in healthcare costs, with each preventable readmission costing $1 for every $10 spent on hospital care. That's why hospitals, some with the backing of federal financial support, are targeting to cut down on readmissions, reports the Wall Street Journal.

One improvement strategy is to follow up on patient medication adherence after discharge. Independence Blue Cross has piloted programs targeted at reducing the readmission risk for 25 conditions.

Another strategy is to provide every patient a virtual discharge nurse, as demonstrated by Project RED (Re-Engineered Discharge), a Boston University Medical Center initiative that cut readmissions by 30 percent. By explaining specific instructions, the virtual nurse, Louise, helps patients understand their post-discharge care. AHRQ is currently funding for 250 Joint Commission-accredited hospitals to adopt Project RED discharge planning tools.

With the push to cut length of stay times, skeptics worry that even with improvements in post-discharge instructions, some patients simply aren't well enough to go home and that early discharge may result in readmissions regardless.

For more:
- here's AHRQ info on improving the hospital discharge process
- read The Wall Street Journal article
- check out the Project RED website