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The pressure is on

Healthcare systems are facing more and more pressure to enhance patient satisfaction and communication. Part of the reason for the added pressure is the incredible level of penalties levied by the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) for low HCAHPS scores and poor patient/provider communication. The CMS rates these penalties using readmissions as one of many measurement factors that determine payment.

Generally speaking, CMS links Medicare payments to quality of care and a hospital’s readmission rate. Readmissions are expensive individually, and over time may lead to lower overall profitability. If reducing readmissions is a powerful incentive to achieve higher payments, then hospitals have the opportunity to lower penalties by reporting higher HCAHPS scores.

Emergency hospital workers rushing a patient on a gurney.

Patient perspectives of care

In the alphabet soup of CMS penalty programs, “HHRP” is an important abbreviation. Defined on CMS.gov, “The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program” (HRRP) is a Medicare value-based purchasing program. It encourages hospitals to improve communication and care coordination to engage patients and caregivers in discharge plans and, in turn, reduce avoidable readmissions. The program supports the national goal of improving health care for Americans by linking payments to the quality of hospital care.”1 Easier said than done, right? Let alone burnout, retiring caregivers and the rise of healthcare consumerism? Hold that thought for a moment.

The data

First, it’s important to understand that many factors can cause a hospital readmission. A recent report on Medicare patient readmission shows 2,583 hospitals (83%) received penalties totaling $563 million. Readmitted patients may have a higher degree of severity in their condition, which requires more complex treatment methods. Second, readmissions may represent incoming patient revenue, but in the long run they represent rising costs over time. Higher resource use and increased labor costs associated with readmitted patients are significant financial line items. Conversely, CMS awards quality incentive bonuses, so it’s worth investigating uses for integration technology to improve patient communication and rate higher on HCAHPS scores.

Fallen hospital patient due to poor system integration.

Be proactive

Since readmissions represent direct patient care costs and indirect expenses, look for a platform that sparks engagement across the patient’s care journey. These include digital, interactive devices and an enterprise platform that’s hospital system agnostic. Motivate and engage patients with digital displays that show medications, dosage times and lab results. Push education videos from the bedside while you’re talking about treatments and progress. Make secure health record information available from the patient TV. Show discharge or transfer plans and celebrate milestone successes. In fact, an easily accessible platform helps patient outcomes, so integration is key.

Avoid medication errors

In a recent readmissions study by AHRQ, researchers noted, “…when patients are engaged in their health care, it can lead to measurable improvements in safety and quality.” The study also found that “high rates of readmissions are a major patient safety problem associated with adverse events such as prescribing errors and misdiagnoses of conditions in hospital and ambulatory care settings.” Clearly, some patients may experience confusion about how to complete their prescribed medication regimen or wear prescribed appliances. You can help by displaying medication images, dosages and instructions so patients know they have the right information.

HCI Medication Search app on HCI hospital TV can help reduce CMS penalties.

Map the discharge plan

Show a persistent discharge plan on patient whiteboards so that any changes made during a patient’s stay are immediately reflected from the EHR to their digital whiteboard. Ultimately, that helps patients who may feel confused about their discharge plan, or who may not understand the reasons for some treatments. With integration between the EHR and the ADT system, you allow caregivers to make adjustments on the fly and discharge goals are always visible. Doing so makes sure that everyone involved in the transfer or discharge is on the same page when it comes time to leave the hospital.

Milestones App on HCI digital hospital patient whiteboard can help patient satisfaction.

Make patient education easy

Patient education plays an equally vital role in recovery and discharge, so look for integration with existing education content systems. Integrated solutions can assign and remind patients to view their content. Then, follow up with push surveys to measure comprehension. Nurses and clinical staff can push new education content from the Nurses’ station, and send reminders to view the new content. Video education that isn’t watched remains in the patient’s assignment queue until it’s cleared or viewed. By the time the patient is discharged, they have education to support their long term recovery.

Patient education selections on HCI bedside hospital TV.

An integration solution can help reduce readmissions

When looking for ways to reduce readmissions, an integrated solution can help. Look for an integration solution that offers:

  • Integrations that work across your existing infrastructure
  • Standardized multi-disciplinary communication
  • Patient portals and apps that are patient-centric and easy to use
  • Ongoing, real-time display of treatment plans
  • Accurately displayed patient goals, milestones and successes
  • Comprehensive patient education to supplement transfer and discharge
  • Clinical workflow automation

To increase patient satisfaction, make patient engagement tools easy to use and offer a home-like experience by:

  • Providing touchscreen TVs and tablets that are familiar, like using a smartphone
  • Implementing pillow speaker integration for navigating patient portals and TV menus
  • Offer a range of entertainment options like on-demand movies, games, streaming options and audiobooks
  • Automating self-service options for room controls, meal ordering and specialty services
  • Fostering engagement with a patient portal that’s easy to navigate and use
  • Scheduling follow-up visits through ADT

Request a closer look at how HCI can help your organization lower costs and reduce readmissions.

1 https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/AcuteInpatientPPS/Readmissions-Reduction-Program