How Phone Calls From Nurses Reduce Patient Readmissions

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

A recent study published in Health Affairs found that quick phone calls from a nurse can reduce patient readmissions and cut $1,225 in costs per patient. The researchers tracked a low-resource veteran’s program that uses registered nurses for quality transitional care, who call high risk patients once a week for four weeks (or until the patient transferred to a primary care doctor) for an open-ended discussion. In these phone calls, nurses answered questions about medication and symptoms and side effects, often explaining the importance of medication adherence. Patients that are considered “high risk” have dementia, are 65 years or older, and live alone or have had a previous hospitalization in the year.

Almost all of the patients participate in the nurse phone call program because the goal is to “more seamlessly bridge the patient’s journey from the hospital to the home and to primary care,” according to Amy Kind, assistant professor of medicine (geriatrics) at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, the university behind the study. She adds, “Patients don’t mind a phone call.”

The simple act of calling patients to follow up after a visit has saved the hospital almost $750,000 in a year and a half. Patients saw 11% fewer 30-day readmissions  Nurses can reach a lot more patients by phone call than by home visits and can provide their patients with the reassurance they may be looking for during that crucial one-month period after a hospital admission. While patients will typically receive medication descriptions and instructions at the time of the prescription, they may have questions, may be worried, or may be experiencing unexpected side effects and need someone to talk to. These phone calls keep patients on their medication, explain symptoms, and reduce the need for readmission.

The end result is a more cost effective hospital, but also a less stressed hospital staff and healthier patients, a win-win-win situation. The hope is that the same program can be used in larger patient populations and significantly help resource strained hospitals around the country.

Behavioral Health Training Program at UMass Medical School

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

We are thrilled to announce that Jack Coughlin, RN, founder of PsychCoverage, Inc. has recently been accepted into the Certificate Program in Primary Behavioral Health Care at UMass Medical School. Congratulations, Jack!

The program is designed to “prepare mental health professionals for success as primary care behavioral health clinicians.” Over a period of three months, certificate participants will meet at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (or through their Adobe Connect distance based learning program) for six full-day workshops. The program is taught by primary care behavioral health clinicians and primary care physicians from the Department of Family Medicine and Community health at UMass Medical School and provides actual or virtual discussion and role play for enhanced learning. At the completion of the program, mental health professionals will be better able to provide their services in a primary medical care setting, an achievement that will surely help mental health patients who do not have access to specialized psychiatric professionals.

One of the goals of PsychCoverage is to be able to better prepare primary care doctors to handle the intricacies of mental health patients, and to be a resource for primary care physicians in the same way that they are a resource for psychiatrists. Primary care doctors experience the same types of professional burnout that psychiatrists do, and as general practitioners many physicians and clinicians are less able to diagnose and treat patients with mental illness. At the very least, many mental health patients seeing a GP do not receive the same level of care that they would with a psychiatrist or other mental health specialist. For both the patients’ and physicians’ sakes, PsychCoverage feels it’s important to work on this type of integration between the two medical fields.

The Future of Quality Patient-Centered Healthcare

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Back in August the National Quality Forum awarded Mountain States Healthcare Alliance, based in Tennessee, the 2012 National Quality Healthcare Award for the system’s multiple quality-focused goals. The National Quality Forum wanted to recognize the level of quality patient care the healthcare system has provided, which has a commitment to patient-centered care.

Patient-centered healthcare is certainly what the future looks like, and Mountain States Healthcare Alliance has drafted their “10 principles of patient-centered care,” which were published so other healthcare systems may learn from their successes. These principles include the idea that all team members are considered caregivers, care reflects patient needs and values, information is freely shared between patients and their partners and other caregivers, a patient’s family and friends are part of the care team, patient safety and transparency is the rule, and all caregivers cooperate and focus on the best interests of the patient. Find out more about these quality patient care principles here.

With these guiding principles so clearly outlined, other healthcare systems are soon to discover the benefits to patients and the healthcare system alike. Keeping patient care at the front of everyone’s mind and encouraging all staff – from janitors to executives – to work together to help patients will make any healthcare system more efficient and more effective. Healthcare systems following these guidelines won’t just win awards – they’ll see a happier community and a better run system.

As Mountain States Healthcare Alliance principles state, they’re working hard to “bring patient-centered care from an abstract philosophy to a concrete practice.” Many people still have a choice when it comes to their healthcare needs and patients are more likely to choose a system that puts their needs first. Similarly, finding qualified doctors and physicians to care for those patients won’t be so difficult when they know these patient-centered guiding principles are in place.