Nurse follow-up phone calls to elderly patients don't prevent readmissions, study says

Nurse with patient
Current best practices for follow-up with elderly patients aren't very effective, a new study finds.

Follow-up phone calls to help elderly patients with medication use and encourage additional appointments have little to no practical effect, according to new research.

Preliminary results recently presented by Kevin Biese, M.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, at the American Geriatrics Society 2017 Annual Scientific Meeting suggest an investment in follow-up phone call intervention would be a wasted effort in terms of reducing 30-day readmission rates, according to  conference coverage (sub. req.) in Medscape.

The study was powered to detect a 5% absolute decrease in 30-day readmission rates following a 20-minute phone call in which a nurse assisted elderly patients within three days of emergency care to review medication and other care protocols, and to get them to make a follow-up appointment.

“It most emphatically did not work,” Biese said. Readmission rates in the study’s control group showed no difference from the group that received intervention. Furthermore, patients who got the call were no more likely to schedule an appointment with a doctor, and similar numbers of patients indicated trouble obtaining medications they had been prescribed while in the emergency department, per the article.

Laura Hanson, M.D., the chair of the committee selecting abstracts for the meeting, pointed out that the trial used interventions widely considered best practices in the industry, apparently without basis. As a more effective alternative, she suggested a home visit by a nurse or another member of a coordinated-care team.

Figuring out the best method for following up with patients after they receive emergency care has proven tricky, as providers seek to improve discharge planning to curb alarming rates of readmissions, particularly among elderly patient populations, as FierceHealthcare has previously reported.