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Report Reveals 6 Steps for Hospitals to Cut Heart Failure Readmissions

Update Date: Jul 16, 2013 05:21 PM EDT

A new report reveals six steps for hospitals to help prevent heart failure patients from being admitted to hospital again in the 30 days after they're discharged.

Medical researchers said that patients are even more likely to avoid readmission if all six steps are followed, according to the study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

While each of the six steps had some impact along, researchers discovered readmissions could drop as much as 2 percent if all six recommendations are followed.

While 2 percent may seem like a small number, researchers said the significance is enormous. 

"A million people are hospitalized with heart failure each year and about 250,000 will be back in the hospital within a month," Elizabeth H. Bradley, Ph.D., professor of public health and faculty director of the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, sais in a statement. "If we could keep even 2 percent of them from coming back to the hospital, that could equal a savings of more than $100 million a year."

Researchers said heart failure hospital readmissions are common and a huge contributor to rising healthcare costs.

They say hospitals can cut heart failure hospital readmissions by following these six steps:

1.     Forming partnerships with community doctors to address readmission issues.

2.     Collaborating with other hospitals to develop consistent strategies for reducing readmission.

3.     Having nurses supervise the coordination of medication plans.

4.     Scheduling follow-up appointments before patients leave the hospital.

5.     Developing systems to forward discharge information to the patient's primary care doctor.

6.     Contacting patients on all test results received after they are discharged.

After analyzing almost 600 hospital surveys given between November 2010 and May 2011, researchers found that fewer than 30 percent of the hospitals followed most of the steps and only 7 percent used all six.

"Our findings highlight the importance of the full system of care and the value of coordination among providers for addressing readmissions," Bradley said. "Hospitals and their patients would benefit from considering these six strategies and starting to implement them," she concluded.

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