Transitional care life coaches, clinics save hospitals thousands

Hospitals in Virgina are trying to keep patients from returning to the hospital by bolstering the shift to outpatient care, reported The Virginian-Pilot. For instance, Bon Secours Hampton Roads Health System in Norfolk, Va., has found that using hospital "life coaches" reduces preventable readmissions and saves money.

The life coaches--or medical life coach navigators--connect low-income and uninsured patients with free or reduced-price care at nearby clinics. Of the 1,000 patients seen by the hospital's two life coaches in 2010, only two came back to the emergency room for the same complaint that year. Meanwhile, 90 percent followed through with the coaches' plans for ongoing care.

The life coaches, both licensed practical nurses, also saved the hospital about $150,000 in 2010, according to Catholic Health World.

As the life coach program expands, Bon Secours Hampton Roads is examining whether coaches paid by the hospital or an external agency are more successful, hospital spokeswoman Lynne Zultanky told Catholic Health World.

With similar goals in mind, Chesapeake (Va.) Regional Medical Center has launched a transitional care clinic, which costs about $102,000 to run, noted the Virginian-Pilot.

Providers examine uninsured chronically ill patients within two weeks of their hospital stays. And within two months, they arrange ongoing primary care, usually at a free clinic. Despite the operational costs, the transitional clinic could save Chesapeake Regional about $400,000 a year, according to an analysis of the first seven months.

For more information:
- read the Virginian-Pilot article
- check out the Catholic Health World piece