Hospitals seek proactive strategies to prevent homeless readmissions

Although hospitals across the country seek ways to address community needs among homeless and otherwise marginalized patients, many organizations find themselves with few options but to discharge homeless patients to situations that will likely lead to their readmissions, according to the Dallas News.

Federal regulators recently censured two Dallas hospitals for discharging a homeless patient and placing him in "immediate jeopardy," according to the article. Green Oaks Hospital discharged the patient to a boardinghouse that could not accommodate his wheelchair and Parkland Memorial Hospital sent the same man to an unprepared homeless shelter.

More than 70 U.S. cities, including three in Houston and one in Austin, have established respite care centers, which are way stations for recently discharged homeless patients. "One of the really cool things that happens if you get homeless people into a safe place for a time is they connect with human services," Donna J. Biederman, an associate professor at Duke University School of Nursing, told the Dallas News. "They may get disability [payments] and now are in line to get an apartment. This suddenly becomes a success story."

In Oakland County, Michigan, Common Ground Sanctuary, which offers services for the mentally ill, victims of crime, and people and families in crisis, has cut psychiatric hospitalization rates among its clients. Hospitalization rates are now at an annual average of 19 percent, compared to 45 percent in 2011, saving millions and strengthening outcomes, according to Crain's Detroit Business.

Common Ground's strategies involve connecting those in crisis with resources and services within the community and following up with patients to make sure they attend to their mental health needs, similar to the use of "homeless navigators" in California. The sanctuary serves 70,000 people a year, double the rate of 2008, according to the article.

Many hospitals have investigated the possibility of using mobile medical homes to reduce the cost burden of homeless and uninsured patients in the emergency department, FierceHealthcare previously reported. The homeless are often roped into healthcare fraud due to their desperate circumstances and reduced likelihood of reporting it.

To learn more:
- here's the Crain's story
- read the Dallas News story