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Sound off! Educating patients to reduce readmissions
by Staff Minority Nurse Writer
Megan Kramer, R.N., B.S.N., a research nurse in the Division of Geriatric Medicine at Montefiore Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, wrote to Minority Nurse looking raise awareness about readmissions and patient education. Here’s some of what she had to share:
Patient, nurse, hospital administrator, or politician: any one could tell you, hospital readmissions cost a lot of money and time. Preventable readmissions should be a top concern, and those preventative measures start, in part, through education. There are many steps patients and providers can take to prevent readmission, whether the diagnosis is heart failure, hypertension, or diabetes. It is the responsibility of the health care provider to obtain and provide that information to the patient to keep the person healthy and well, and that effort should begin on the very first day of hospitalization.
It often seems like only a handful of people actually know why they take a certain medication, why they need to eat a low-fat diet, or why they’re dealing with a particular health problem. Why do millions of people die from certain diseases that could have been prevented or treated? We nurses could improve our patients’ knowledge if we had time to sit down with patients to give them the proper tools to keep them from being readmitted to the hospital. Too many times I’ve heard from my colleagues, “She doesn’t keep her blood pressure under control; she just eats whatever she wants,” or “He doesn’t care enough to take care of himself.” But this may not be the case—perhaps their self-care shortcomings were due to a lack of knowledge. We can’t control what our patients do at home, but we can ensure an effort was made to educate them while they are in our care.
According to National Center for Policy Analysis, the average hospital stay is four days. We, as taxpayers, pay approximately $17 billion in Medicare re-hospitalization costs. Yet, this is not only about money; patients need a way to gain greater knowledge in diagnoses.
I think it might be beneficial to have a hospital-mandated educational session where a health educator could meet with each individual patient, allowing proper education of medications, diagnosis, and reason for admission, etc., prior to discharge. I could also be a good idea to have a health educator on each floor of the hospital. For example, in my experience, having only one diabetes educator for the whole hospital meant very long waits. Having one on each floor would provide specialized knowledge (i.e., cardiology floor could hire a cardiology educator). Though it would be an added cost, I believe it could lead to eventual savings through a decline in readmissions.